Cricket: Tame ending as Otago chooses to play it safe

Canterbury wicket keeper Brad Cachopa (left) and bowler Cole McConchie appeal successfully to play it safe for lbw against Otago batsman Michael Bracewell during the Plunket Shield match at the University Oval yesterday.Photo by Craig Baxter.
Canterbury wicket keeper Brad Cachopa (left) and bowler Cole McConchie appeal successfully to play it safe for lbw against Otago batsman Michael Bracewell during the Plunket Shield match at the University Oval yesterday.Photo by Craig Baxter.
Nothing gets in the way of a thrilling finish like the fear of losing.

With an hour remaining in the Plunket Shield match between Otago and Canterbury at the University Oval yesterday, both sides had an opportunity to win the match.

Otago needed 65 runs on a pitch which was difficult to score on, and Canterbury needed five wickets on a surface on which you had to really battle to get breakthroughs.

It was shaping as a terrific finish but Otago pulled out of a meaningful chase when Neil Broom holed out at midwicket.

With seven batsmen back in the dressing room and 50 runs still required, the home side ran out of conviction.

It was a disappointing finish to a game which promised drama to the end but Otago coach Vaughn Johnson was unapologetic.

"I had a debutant and 18-year-old left to bat and I didn't think we had the firepower at that stage to bring it home," Johnson said.

"I thought we played a lot of cricket in this game and I didn't want to lose the game.

"We gave it a decent crack until we were seven down and decided that was it."

Set 235 to win, Otago remained in touch with the required run rate. Some overs were lost to poor weather but, to Canterbury's credit, it got through more than the minimum required.

The visiting side was keen for the win and Peter Fulton did a fine job of dangling the carrot to keep Otago interested in the chase.

Canterbury resumed at 234 for five, looking to build on its lead of 216.

But its best-laid plans quickly unravelled. Fulton was not able to add much to his overnight total of 106. Clearly looking to force the pace, he was undone on 108 when he spooned a catch to point.

Cole McConchie had his off stump knocked out of the ground by Jacob Duffy and Willie Lonsdale was brilliantly run out by Darren Broom, who hit the stumps from side on 30m out.

Then there was some light relief when 20-year-old debutant Will Williams was out handled the ball.

It was only the fourth time in New Zealand first-class cricket someone had been dismissed in that fashion.

The rain arrived as Williams headed to the dressing room for the inevitable ribbing from his team-mates. Canterbury declared during the stoppage.

The Volts had an early setback with Hamish Rutherford nicking out to the off spinner Tim Johnston, and went to lunch at 31 for one.

Both Michael Bracewell (23) and Aaron Redmond (61) looked to play positively but wickets fell when batsman looked to attack in the match.

Bracewell was beaten in flight by McConchie and adjudged lbw. Redmond brought up his 31st first-class half century but joined a host of others who have fallen lbw in this game. This time it was the busy Ben McCord who got a delivery to nip back. He struck again quickly, trapping Ian Butler in front before the all-rounder could get established.

He had been promoted to No 5 to attack the bowling and next man in, Jimmy Neesham, had the same approach. He cracked four fours in a brief stay before he, too, was also trapped lbw.

While Neil Broom remained in the middle, Otago had a good chance of winning. He was closing in on a half century and looking to play more expansively when he lofted a catch to Johnston.

And that was it. Mark Craig and Darren Broom blocked out the next nine overs.