Anaru Kitchen turned up the heat as the State Auckland Aces assumed total command of the State Championship cricket final today.
Kitchen stroked a fluent 115 and skipper Richard Jones 109 as the top qualifiers advanced their first innings score to 300 for five at Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln outside of Christchurch.
That left them 120 runs in front of the Central Stags with five wickets in hand, a position of considerable strength which owed much to Kitchen's quality innings.
A young man who has made a most favourable impression in his maiden season on the first-class circuit, the 25-year-old entered the five-day championship decider already with two centuries to his name and a reputation for going for his shots.
He enhanced that rap with a top knock, sharing a third wicket stand of 184 with Jones after Auckland suffered two early setbacks when pursuing Central Districts' very modest first innings of 180.
Kitchen found the boundary 18 times, including three sixes, as he collected his runs off 180 deliveries, scoring at a rate considerably quickly than Jones, who faced 220 balls in his 325-minute occupation of the crease for his 15th first-class century.
Jones was dismissed midway through the final session when he bottom edged an attempted pull shot off left-armer Ewen Thompson only to see gloveman Bevan Griggs pull off a fine catch while tumbling to his left.
Earlier, Central Districts resumed this morning on 169 for eight but former international Daryl Tuffey ensured they did not stick around for long as he dismissed Jacob Oram and tailender Mitchell McClenaghan in quick succession.
Tuffey ended with the figures of two for 42 but the star for Auckland was Lance Shaw, who yesterday collected career-best figures of five for 59.
Central desperately needed someone to do a Shaw thing but their hopes almost immediately took a knock when seamer Michael Mason was forced out of the attack due to injury.
Mason delivered just 3.4 overs and brought his team cheer when he extracted opener Jeet Raval for four. Raval last week dined out on the Central attack when he made 256 in their last round robin game.
McClenaghan chipped in with the scalp of Rob Nicol for 12 and Central Districts had a spring in their step with Auckland an uncertain 39 for two.
But Kitchen and Jones seized control, leaving Auckland at very short odds to secure their first first-class trophy since 2004-05.