Cricket: Milne bags five as Otago struggles

Sam Wells completes one of the 78 runs he scored during Otago's first innings in its Plunket Shield match against Central Districts at Nelson Park, Napier, yesterday. Photo by Hawke's Bay Today.
Sam Wells completes one of the 78 runs he scored during Otago's first innings in its Plunket Shield match against Central Districts at Nelson Park, Napier, yesterday. Photo by Hawke's Bay Today.
Adam Milne was fast-tracked into international cricket two years ago because he has something you just cannot coach - pace.

The 20-year-old Central Districts strike bowler used that extra zip to good effect yesterday, scything through the Otago batting line-up to claim his maiden five-wicket bag during a Plunket Shield match in Napier.

Earlier he got within three runs of a maiden century. What a day it would have been for the rising star had he got those extra runs.

His efforts, though, have helped put his side in a seemingly unassailable position at stumps on day two. And no doubt mentor and Black Caps bowling coach Shane Bond has taken note of Milne's latest effort.

Central resumed on 367 for seven and posted a formidable 476 thanks partly to a damaging 133-run eighth-wicket partnership between Milne and Tarun Nethula.

Otago is in a desperate situation at 232 for nine and needs another 95 runs to avoid the follow-on mark.

While Otago will need to bat well to avoid defeat, it might be tempted to send an SOS to Sri Lanka.

The team's leading bowling Neil Wagner has been sitting on the sidelines for the Black Caps for the past few weeks and the Volts desperately need him back in the mix. Without Wagner, and with James McMillan ruled out with injury, Otago's attack has been cruelly exposed.

Eighteen-year-old Jacob Duffy and rookie Blair Soper have discovered just how tough first-class cricket can be. And change bowlers Ian Butler and Jimmy Neesham have not had much success during the past two days either.

Nethula and Milne added 98 from 129 deliveries on Monday evening and twisted the knife yesterday, adding another 35 runs to break Central's eighth-wicket partnership record against Otago of 113, set by Ross Taylor and Robbie Schaw in Napier in 2006-07.

Nethula posted his maiden century before he was undone on 108 and Milne significantly improved on his previous highest first-class score of 38.

But if Milne was peeved at missing out on a ton, disappointment soon gave way to elation, with the young fast bowler picking up three quick wickets.

He bowled Hamish Rutherford and Michael Bracewell with consecutive deliveries and then claimed Aaron Redmond's wicket in the eighth over to leave the visitors struggling at 22 for three.

Otago all-rounder Sam Wells, who recovered from a hamstring strain to play as a specialist batsman, combined with captain Derek de Boorder to help relieve some pressure. By tea, Otago had recovered somewhat at 128 for four.

But that man Milne struck again. He bowled de Boorder and then nicked out Neesham with his next delivery to complete his maiden five-wicket bag.

Wells' fine counterattack came to an end on 78 with the left-hander trapped lbw.

Butler picked up the challenge and posted his fifth first-class half century. He will resume on 53 alongside Soper who is yet to score.

Otago coach Vaughn Johnson felt if his side could squeeze out another 30 or 40 runs it might be enough to convince Central not to enforce the follow-on.

"We've had a poor day," Johnson said.

"But we had a mini recovery at the end and I know we are well behind the eight ball, but we've had a positive talk in the room and look forward to tomorrow.

"If we can get 270-odd then they might feel they need to bat again."

At Eden Park, Auckland and Wellington are basically back to where they started from.

Wellington posted 380 but Auckland batted every bit as well and was 381 for five at stumps on day two.

Colin Munro bought up his third first-class century off 110 balls and is undefeated on 122.

He had good support from Craig Cachopa, who is also undefeated on 74.