First innings points for Knights and Firebirds

The feast turned into a comparative famine for Plunket Shield cricket combatants around the country today.

A day after 40 wickets tumbled when the seventh round fixtures started, the batsmen at least held their end up in Hamilton and Rangiora.

Only 20 wickets fell at the two venues where play was possible, after the Otago Volts match against the Central Stags saw no action at all due to rain in Dunedin.

First innings points were gained by the Northern Knights and the Wellington Firebirds, with the latter well served by two former internationals in Grant Elliott and Jeetan Patel.

These two returned to Rangiora this morning on 54 and one respectively against the Canterbury Wizards and were then held up until 2.40pm when a damp patch on the pitch caused by overnight rain was sufficiently dried to allow the match to resume.

At 145 for six Wellington were still 17 runs shy of Canterbury's opening effort but Elliott and Patel ensured the visitors gained a handy first innings lead of 85 runs as they advanced their seventh wicket stand to 63 before Elliott departed for a watchful 79.

Patel, fresh from scoring 99 against Northern, stuck around for more than two hours before he was the last man out for 51 with Wellington dragging out their response to 247.

Legspinner Todd Astle and seamer Andy Ellis were easily Canterbury's best with the ball, with Astle claiming five for 91 off 24 overs for his sixth five for at this level, and Ellis taking three for 46.

Canterbury wiped out the deficit but that came at a cost as they ended today on 108 for four in the second innings, leading overall by just 23 runs and leaving Wellington very much on top.

Northern took only 11 balls this morning to wrap up the Auckland tail at Seddon Park, with Trent Boult striking twice in the space of three deliveries to end the innings at 227 after dismissing Bruce Martin for his overnight 45 and No 11 Chris Martin for yet another brief duck.

Fast bowler Michael Bates was left unbeaten on 69 then found form with the ball as well to take five for 38 as Northern were dismissed for 291 immediately before stumps.

One of Bates' earlier victims was opener Brad Wilson for 71 to leave Northern at an unconvincing 145 for four before wicketkeeper Peter McGlashan came to the party to edge his side past their immediate target with a fine knock of 69 which was ended by the indefatigable Chris Martin, who took four for 66.

Bates completed the fourth five-wicket return of his first-class career when he bowled tailender Brent Arnel close to 6.30pm.

No play was possible in Dunedin where Central trail Otago by just 13 runs in the first innings and have four wickets in hand, including that of skipper Kruger van Wyk, who made an unbeaten 40 to guide the visitors to 134 for six at stumps on the first day.

Tomorrow's forecast in the southern city is for fine spells and the match is already so well advanced that a result is still likely providing the teams get in two full days' play.

NZPA

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