Cricket: Van Wyk proving hard to ignore

Central Districts wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk is used to playing the waiting game.

Six years ago, the South African-born right-hander left his life in the Republic behind to move to New Zealand, knowing he would have to stand down for four years before becoming eligible for his adopted nation.

Northern Districts part-time wicketkeeper BJ Watling got the nod ahead of van Wyk for the one-off test against Zimbabwe recently but the diminutive 32-year-old has not given up hope and has been demonstrating why he will be hard to leave out for the opening test against South Africa in Dunedin next week.

Van Wyk guided Central Districts to a five-wicket win against Otago in their Plunket Shield clash at the Queenstown Events Centre with a superb undefeated innings of 74. He was also undefeated in his first innings effort, batting beautifully for 72.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It is nice to bring the side home because that is what it is all about. I just want to do well for the team.

"I've been working really hard on a couple of things and I just want to keep pushing forward."

That hard work has certainly been paying off for van Wyk this season. In six first-class games, he has scored 638 runs at an average of 91.14.

"If I'm brutally honest, I would absolutely love to play for New Zealand. It is the most important thing to me. But, at the end of the day, it is probably out of my hands. All I can do is score runs and keep fighting and hopefully an opportunity will come my way."

Despite some pitiful batting late on Sunday when Otago lost eight wickets for 26 runs, the Volts' prospects of escaping with a victory were still evenly poised when Central Districts resumed its second innings at seven for one. The early departure of captain Jamie How certainly lifted the home side's spirits.

How was one of three key wickets Otago would have singled out as crucial, Mathew Sinclair and van Wyk being the others. How was trapped in front by Warren McSkimming without adding to the team's overnight score.

Sinclair eased some early nerves with a drive back down the ground for two from his first delivery. But the senior statesman never really looked established at the crease and perished when he got an inside edge through to the keeper from the bowling of Sam Wells.

Earlier, a brilliant piece of fielding from Michael Bracewell accounted for Ben Smith. Derek de Boorder completed the run out with a smart gather and swift removal of the bails.

Central had slumped to 55 for four and the momentum had swung in Otago's favour.

But a flurry of boundaries from van Wyk and Kieran Noema-Barnett put the pressure squarely back on the Otago attack. The pair added 50 from just 48 balls and by lunch the initiative had shifted again with Central 116 for four.

Van Wyk was savage on anything short, dancing around in his crease and cutting the ball particularly well. He also swivelled into some delightful pull shots.

Of all the batsmen on display, he looked to have the most time and was able to play with more freedom than anybody else.

He had some solid support in Carl Cachopa, with the pair sharing an unbroken stand of 78 for the sixth-wicket to seal the win.

With a maximum of 80 points still on offer from the remaining four games, technically Otago is not out of contention. But with just 32 points - 48 points behind leader Northern Districts - Otago's title prospects look slim.

Meanwhile, Wellington wrapped up a seven-wicket win over Auckland at Colin Maiden Park yesterday to leapfrog the home side into second in the standings, APNZ reports.

Leader Northern Districts, which beat last-placed Canterbury by 134 runs in Rangiora, retains top spot on 80 points, with Wellington on 63 and Auckland a further 10 points back with four rounds remaining.

Auckland went into yesterday's final day still trailing by 83 runs with only four wickets in hand and was all out for 201 leaving Wellington two sessions to score the runs.

Former New Zealand seamer Mark Gillespie completed a 10-wicket haul for the match, the 32-year-old's first in 63 first class matches.

Northern Districts picked up the six wickets it needed to defeat Canterbury in Rangiora yesterday to win by 134 runs.

Dan Vettori claimed his 31st first-class five-wicket bag.

The seventh round of matches gets under way on Friday.