Bowlers dominate in Plunket Shield

The Plunket Shield bowlers wore the widest grins at all three venues on the opening day of seventh round fixtures as 40 wickets tumbled at a cost of just 815 runs.

While the batsmen regularly played and missed, their opponents appreciated the first day conditions in Hamilton, Rangiora and Dunedin.

Wellington Firebirds left-arm fast bowler Andy McKay was one of those to take advantage as he returned career best figures of five for 54 off 15 overs to help dismissed Canterbury for 162 in 46.4 overs at Rangiora, a venue which traditionally treats the batsmen favourably.

McKay bagged just the second five-wicket haul of his 28-match first-class career while former international Mark Gillespie enjoyed his work also as he captured three for 45 against a batting lineup which failed to deliver.

Only wicketkeeper Reece Young, who topscored with 42, and opener Rob Nicol, with 31, made any impression against the Wellington attack.

Wellington then closed in on first innings honours by ending the day on 145 for six thanks mainly to former international Grant Elliott, who made 54 not out in 151 minutes to paper over the cracks after they had been reduced to 115 for five.

Todd Astle took three for 44 for the home side while 32-year-old debutant Struan George had the satisfaction of claiming a wicket when he had opener Stephen Murdoch caught behind for 23.

In Dunedin, the pre-match concerns of the Central Stags coach Alan Hunt were proved to be spot on as the bowlers from both sides made serious inroads at University Oval.

It was no surprise that visiting captain Kruger van Wyk barely blinked before inviting the Otago Volts to bat first after winning the toss, and his bowlers duly showed why he made the correct call.

Otago, who beat the Auckland Aces in the last round by 10 wickets after rolling the northerners for 46 in their first innings at the same venue, felt the heat as fast bowler Neil Wagner topscored with 27 as his side surrendered for 147 in less than 49 overs.

Medium pacer Kieran Noema-Barnett, a 23-year-old in his 10th first-class game, returned his best figures at this level as he took four for 20 off 11.2 overs while young speedster Ben Wheeler also had a good day with three for 47.

Otago's performance with the bat was placed into context before the end of the day as Central Districts scratched around in reaching 134 for six by stumps, with Wagner to the fore with the ball as the left-arm quick collected three for 43.

Noema-Barnett smacked a quick 27 but his dismissal reduced Canterbury to 74 for six before van Wyk posted 40 not out and shared a seventh wicket partnership of 60 with Tarun Nethula, who resumes tomorrow on 23.

At Hamilton, Auckland's miserable season continued as they threatened to capitulate as they slumped to 125 for eight after being inserted at Seddon Park.

Their dignity was protected only by a feisty, determined and unbroken ninth wicket stand of 102 runs between fast bowler Michael Bates and spinner Bruce Martin which enabled the visitors to reach stumps at 227 for eight.

Bates' share was 68 not out in close to four hours of devoted service while Martin also did a fine job shielding talented tailender Chris Martin as he stuck around for 158 minutes to contribute 45 not out.

Newcomer James Baker impressed for the Northern Knights with figures of two for 32 from 23 accurate overs.

NZPA

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