A battling rearguard half-century by Ewen Thompson has kept the State Central Stags title hopes alive after a weather-affected fourth day of the State Championship cricket final at Christchurch today.
Thompson defied the Auckland attack to be 54 not out when Central second innings folded for 349 leaving Auckland chasing 188 for an outright win on the final day tomorrow.
The match lost the morning session today because of rain overnight and bad light prevented Auckland from batting once Central were dismissed.
Resuming on 116 for three, Central's plan to bat briskly and bank some runs was reined in by a mixture of tight bowling from Auckland and an inability to build strong partnerships.
Peter Ingram resumed on 60 but his innings was ended with a catch by Reece Young off legspinner Tarun Nethula when he was on 90.
Nethula, who yesterday dismissed Central skipper and dangerman Mathew Sinclair for 33, took his third wicket when he snaffled the wicket of hard-hitting Brendon Diamanti on 22 with a leg before wicket decision.
Gritty middle order batsman Bevan Griggs tried to hold Central's innings together but became Auckland's eighth wicket when he was run out on 44.
Thompson got to 54 off 51 balls but once Griggs departed, the way was open for Daryl Tuffey to clean Central's tail up, removing Michael Mason and Mitchell McClenaghan, who got four runs in a 38-run partnership with Thompson.
Auckland, as the top qualifiers, need only a draw from the match to be crowned champions.