Jesse Ryder’s 23rd first-class century ruined Canterbury’s plans at Saxton Oval as an overnight declaration on a lifeless pitch spectacularly backfired.
To recap, all Canterbury needed to do to secure the Plunket Shield with a round to spare was win this match.
Instead, Ryder’s century ensured the Central Stags chased down 347 for their first outright of the season, giving them lift-off from the bottom of the table.
Willing them on every step of the way until Adam Milne closed out the four-wicket win with a six were the defending champions the Auckland Aces and Northern Districts whose chances consequently remain very much alive heading into the last round of 2017.
Given that the Aces will face the Stags at McLean Park in that last round, the Stags may not be on their Christmas card just yet. Canterbury meanwhile will head back to Hagley Oval ruing a lost opportunity, their lead just eight points, and season back in the balance against the Firebirds next week.
Canterbury captain Andrew Ellis had declared overnight and his quest began well enough, Logan van Beek striking in his first over of the morning to have the Stags 1/1, Greg Hay losing his off stump.
But it didn’t take long for the Stags to reveal their positive intent. Mitch Renwick & George Worker formed an attractive combination ans quickly found the boundary, peeling five of them before the first change.
Ellis brought himself on in the eighth over but by drinks they’d chipped off the first 50 and, when Tim Johnston was introduced after the refreshments, Worker slaughtered him straight to the fence, too.
Leg-spinner Todd Astle entered the picture in the 19th over trying to stop Worker from reaching back-to-back half centuries. He didn’t. But he did trap Renwick with a wrong ‘un just as a 100-stand for the second wicket was raring into sight.
Astle would be not only Canterbury’s workhorse, but leading wicket-taker with 4-96 off his 30 overs. The problem was that the Stags just kept coming. When Will Young joined Worker, it was the cue for quick Ed Nuttall to be brought back in. Young slapped him for four off a no ball, just as Worker had done earlier, raising the Stags’ 100.
Worker was caught first ball after lunch on 53, off the glove. Astle and his Canterbury comrades converged into an excited huddle, jumping up and down like Maasai warriors. Sauntering in as Worker’s replacement was Jesse Ryder. He popped Ellis for twin boundaries almost immediately.
Ryder, with his fast eye and sure-footed strokeplay, and Will Young, the lovely strokemaker who had swivelled his way to a century in the first innings, could not have been more different in batting style, but both were a must-watch and together they were equally explosive.
Young quickly got his touch going against Ellis and Astle as the chase began to diminish to 200, less than four an over the required rate. He pirouetted into a pull shot to post the Stags’ 150 with another boundary off Astle, Ryder sweeping Johnston shortly afterwards for the 50 stand.
Spin was feeding the dragon, the stand growing to 82. So, Ellis turned back to van Beek. And in just the second over of his spell, the allrounder had the breakthrough, Young furious with himself as he slayed, only to catch the edge and be caught behind just three short of backing up with a half-ton.
Tom Bruce arrived with a further 163 needed to win from a session and a half, but another brief stay buoyed the Canterbury attack: from 184 for three, now the Stags were 205 for five as Astle delighted in a simple caught and bowled.
It was a pivotal time in the innings; another quick couple of of blows and Canterbury would be back in the box seat, but the batting acumen of wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver posed a challenge. Cleaver slowly played himself in either side of the tea break, Ryder by now just one run away from his half century, which he would duly post off 108 balls.
The Stags needed 135 from the last session to break their season hoodoo as Ryder began to make the boundary look closer and closer. Cleaver, too, began to slam the ball around, posting the Stags’ 250 and then a 50-stand with Ryder with consecutive boundaries off Ellis.
He was in sight of an attractive half-century of his own when he was suddenly bowled around his legs to become Astle’s fourth victim.
Now, though, the advantage was very much back with the Stags, a further 51 required and plenty of overs to get them. The Stags were coming off a far closer chase against the Firebirds, and now it seemed a dress rehearsal for the definitive match of round nine.
Cleaver would be the last to fall. Adam Milne would put the 300 on the board at drinks, then Ryder would blast his first six off Nuttall to take himself into the 90s. Of his 23 first-class centuries, this was only his second for his original team and, when he got there, only 19 runs were required for a dramatic upset.
Milne had been cracking along himself at run-a-ball pace and it would be he who struck the winning runs, smashing a four and then six next ball to simultaneously bring up an unbroken 50-stand as the pair trooped in with a shock four-wicket win. Around the country, other teams rejoiced too. It was going to be an interesting final week.
Article courtesy of New Zealand Cricket
Images courtesy of PHOTOSPORT NZ