Tarun Nethula moved the State Auckland Aces a crucial step closer to their objective in the State Championship cricket final today.
The rookie legspinner removed State Central Stags captain Mathew Sinclair in classical fashion on the third afternoon of the five-day match to leave Auckland within sight of their first first-class title since the summer of 2004-05.
His removal of Sinclair for 33 reduced Central to 111 for three in their second innings and they had time only to add five more runs before rain forced the second early close of play in three days.
At 116 for three Central still need another 46 runs to make the Aucklanders pad up again, but it seems too tall an order for them to post a total of sufficient size to test the opposition.
With four championship centuries in the scorebook this summer, Sinclair is his team's batting lynchpin and his dismissal marked a crucial juncture in a match which does not seem likely to go the distance.
He had helped put on 59 for the third wicket with in-form opener Peter Ingram when Nethula struck in his fifth over, drawing Sinclair forward in a defensive pose.
Nethula extracted just enough sideways movement to find the edge of the bat and Rob Nicol pulled off a bobbled catch at slip.
With a match double of 34 and 33, Sinclair lifted his aggregate to the season to 904 runs at an average of 75.33 an innings.
Ingram, another who has scored heavily this summer, will resume tomorrow on 60 with six fours, and desperately needs support at the other end as he strives to give his bowlers something to bowl at in the last innings of the match.
Having been rolled for 180 in their first innings, Central began today in search of quick wickets when Auckland resumed at 300 for five.
Sinclair got the response he wanted from his troops, as the bowlers held sway this morning to end the Auckland innings at 342.
After centuries yesterday to skipper Richard Jones and Anaru Kitchen, none of the Auckland batsmen got into stride, with Gareth Hopkins and Colin de Grandhomme the next best with a pair of 32s.
Seamer Mitchell McClenaghan picked up two of the wickets this morning to finish with three for 97 and the other spoils were shared about by his colleagues.