Cricket: Auckland claim big lead

Auckland have taken a commanding lead at the halfway point of their Plunket Shield match against Northern Districts thanks to a record seventh-wicket partnership.

After bowling out the visitors for 208 yesterday at Eden Park's outer oval, Auckland looked to be stuttering their way towards a similar score when they were reduced to 150-6.

But that brought No 8 Bruce Martin to the crease where he joined Craig Cachopa in an unlikely stand to leave the Aces with a lead of 157 at stumps and three wickets still in hand.

Martin evidently excels playing against the province for whom he made his debut and played 10 seasons. The left-arm spinner was the pick off the bowlers in the first innings, claiming four wickets, and he backed that up with a potentially match-winning knock with the bat today.

He batted for almost four hours in the afternoon to bring up his second first-class century, finishing unbeaten on 107 at stumps - six short of his highest score.

Martin and Cachopa put on 168 for the seventh wicket - a record for Auckland against Northern Districts - before Cachopa finally fell to spinner Ish Sodhi for 82.

The Aces were fortunate to receive such considerable contributions from their No 7 and No 8, after five of the top six made starts but failed to push past 50.

Five Northern Districts' bowlers shared the first six Auckland wickets but no one from the defending champions could break through the staunch resistance they found in the lower order.

Auckland nabbed three batting bonus points to go with the four their bowlers had accumulated, meaning even a draw would push them past the defending champion Knights and off the bottom spot on the ladder.

However, Martin, Michael Bates (10no) and the rest of the Aces will begin tomorrow morning with their sights set slightly higher.

- Kris Shannon of APNZ