The Central Stags are just one game away from claiming the Plunket Shield, after beating the Canterbury Wizards by four wickets on day four at Mainpower Oval, Rangiora.
Resuming the day at 156 for three the Wizards needed to take early wickets to really put the pressure on the Stags middle and lower-order. Unfortunately though they failed to create the collapse they required and Kruger van Wyk (29*) and Doug Bracewell (0*) saw out the victory.
The day hadn’t started well for the Stags, with night-watchmen Ajaz Patel bowled for seven by Ryan McCone. At the other end however they had the perfect player out in the middle in the form of veteran Mathew Sinclair.
The wily 36 year-old settled things down expertly for the Stags, bringing up a crucial half-century with 53 from 78 balls. He effectively ended the match, but fell four runs short of the target when he was dismissed by Todd Astle after 59 overs.
Van Wyk though was on hand to complete the task and did so calmly. The Stags now hold a nine point advantage over the Volts in second place and face neighbourly rivals the Northern Knights in the final round.
For the Central Stags the Plunket Shield is within reach...
Interesting fourth day on the way
The Central Stags are within 106 of a crucial victory against the Canterbury Wizards at Mainpower Oval in Rangiora, but stuttered late in day three when they lost both established batsmen.
The Stags are 156 for three heading into the final day, after the Wizards set them a target of 256 thanks to a brilliant century from Dean Brownlie in the second innings.
Earlier, the Stags had fallen one short of a bonus point in their first attempt with the bat, dismissed for 249. The top-order all got off to healthy starts, with Doug Bracewell (61) and Kieran Noema- Barnett (57) the leading scorers for their side.
However, a team effort with the ball meant that they didn’t build the lead they may have expected and were left with a three run deficit in the first innings. Ben McCord and Todd Astle were the biggest threat with the ball, taking three wickets apiece.
Brownlie then took over for the Wizards in their return to the crease, playing patiently to bring up his eighth First-Class century. His 135 came off 247 balls and featured 15 fours. His teammates might have done well to replicate his measured approach, with Shanan Stewart (61) and Henry Nicholls (29) the only other two batsmen to make double figures.
Much of that can be contributed to another stellar performance with the ball from the Stags, with Andrew Lamb leading the way with five for 49. Doug Bracewell picked up two to take his match wicket tally to nine, while Andrew Mathieson also collected a couple.
Central’s pursuit of the victory then got off to a rollicking start when Jamie How and Jeet Raval put on 145 for the first wicket. They looked to be carrying their side to the simplest of victories, but six overs from the close of play Raval was dismissed for 59 and quickly followed by number three Carl Cachopa for one.
The biggest blow then came at the start of the 33rd over, with How trapped in front by Matt McEwan for 81. While the Stags still remain favourites, the Wizards will harbour hopes of creating a collapse early tomorrow and upsetting the current competition leaders.
A big day in store for day four.
Bracewell unstoppable at Rangiora
Central Stags’ opening bowler Doug Bracewell ravaged the Canterbury Wizards on day one of their Plunket Shield match at Mainpower Oval in Rangiora, with the 22 year-old taking seven wickets to restrict the hosts to 252 in the first-innings.
In the remaining ten overs of the day Jamie How (19*) and Jeet Raval (13*) remained calm to see the Stags close out the third session at 32 without loss.
The Wizards total largely revolved around the fifth wicket partnership between Tom Latham and Shanan Stewart, which was worth a hefty 129.
With George Worker (34) and Henry Nicholls (21) the only ones to make contributions from the Wizards’ top four, the middle-order needed to stand tall and Latham was the first to take on the responsibility.
The 20 year-old once again confirmed his talent, scoring a team-high 81 which featured ten fours and came off 128 balls. Stewart provided the support needed with 61 and together they took the Wizards towards a respectable total.
Unfortunately just as they began to gain the momentum disaster struck, with both established players falling in quick succession.
Todd Astle chimed in with 34 late on, but Bracewell accounted for the tail with ease and ended the innings after 87 overs.
His figures of seven for 35 off 19 overs are a career best from one innings, with his previous best being six for 40.
Supporting Bracewell was Andrew Lamb, Ajaz Patel and Tarun Nethula who all took one wicket apiece.
The focus now turns to the Stags batsmen to perform, with a victory in this match nearly guaranteeing them the Plunket Shield title.