18 November 2020
Canterbury takes half-time lead
Undefeated after three big victories and a draw, Canterbury will take the Plunket Shield championship lead into 2021 when the back half of New Zealand’s local first-class season resumes in March.
But after a remarkable show of tail-end defiance from the Otago Volts in Alexandra, it won’t be with quite the clear margin Canterbury was hoping for.
Meanwhile, Northern Districts has overtaken the only other unbeaten side besides Canterbury, the Auckland Aces, to claim second spot on the table at the mid-competition recess.
ND closed out a tense finish against the Central Stags in Nelson while the Aces forced a good draw with the Wellington Firebirds in Wellington that brought the Aucklanders just a handful of first-innings points (3) for their trouble.
Named in the BLACKCAPS Test squad this morning, Will Young’s unbeaten 110 in a fighting effort at Saxton Oval was the highlight of the final afternoon for the Plunket Shield calendar year, as the Stags made a strong push towards chasing down 300 to win.
They fell just 40 runs short of the target with BLACKCAPS Ish Sodhi (3-39) claiming the winning wicket and Tim Southee (4-53) returning seven wickets for the match.
The Otago Volts had faced an uphill battle to avoid an innings defeat heading into the last morning at Molyneux Park, but a deterrmined vigil from captain Hamish Rutherford (his 72 eating up 293 minutes) inspired the tail to emulate his resistance – against a side that had already clinched two innings victories this season, together with an eight-wicket victory in the first round.
So the smart money was all on Canterbury, but despite a maiden first-class five-wicket bag to allrounder Daryl Mitchell (5-44), the Volts forced a remarkable draw. Alongside Rutherford, it was thanks to a fighting equal-career best 46 from number 10 batsman Travis Muller who was anchored by stubborn young wicketkeeper-batsman Max Chu (41 not out from 230 balls).
Muller was succeeded by last man Michael Rae who held on for a further 112 minutes, during which the ‘last hour’ was taken, to deny Canterbury against the odds, and see the match declared an honourable draw.
For the Auckland Aces, opening batsman Graeme Beghin’s second career first-class century was the highlight of the morning.
The side then dug in through the afternoon at the Basin and finished the match on a 130-run second innings lead, after the Firebirds couldn’t back up their impressive performance with the bat over the previous two days with the quick wickets they had needed to force a victory.
The four-day Plunket Shield now takes a break until 11 March 2021 when the last four of eight rounds will unfold. There is no Final in the Plunket Shield, with the champion decided by the points table.
The first half finishes with last season’s top batsman Devon Conway (Wellington Firebirds) once again leading the run aggregates with 410 runs from seven innings at an average of 58.57. Next best is ND captain Joe Carter with 345 at 57.50.
Canterbury paceman Will Williams retains the wicket-taking lead with 21 from four matches at 13.28, including two five-wicket bags; closely followed by Auckland Aces and BLACKCAP Kyle Jamieson with 20 from three matches at 10.85, with a five-wicket bag in every match.
Otago Volts’ consistent Jacob Duffy had 19 at 19.26 and Canterbury’s Fraser Sheat 18 at 13.16.
Canterbury’s Cam Fletcher has the most dismissals with 10.
Canterbury’s Daryl Mitchell has the most catches with 13.
Points after four rounds:
Canterbury – 62
Northern Districts – 42
Auckland Aces – 41
Central Stags – 27
Otago Volts 26
Wellington Firebirds – 18
New Zealand’s Domestic cricketers now turn their sights to The Ford Trophy one-day competition which begins in New Plymouth, Christchurch and Whangarei on Sunday 29 November.
The women’s sister competition, the one-day Hallyburton Johnstone Shield meanwhile begins this Saturday in New Plymouth, Oamaru and Wellington.