Cricket: Night watchman makes a day of it

Neil Broom
Neil Broom
Who comes in as a nightwatchman and scores a maiden century in their first four-day game of the season? Otago spinner Nick Beard - that's who.

The 23-year-old was the joint leading wicket-taker in the twenty/20 tournament but has not been able to get a start for his province in first-class cricket this summer.

Beard may not have even played against Auckland had seamer Jacob Duffy been ruled fit.

But play he did and what an inspired decision it proved to be, to promote him to No 3.

He survived the 20 minutes before stumps on day one and resumed yesterday morning on six having done the job required.

Beard kept working hard yesterday and, quite unbelievably, was undefeated at stumps and on 160, to boot.

Volts batsman Nick Beard receives applause from team-mate Sam Wells as he leaves the field after scoring his maiden first-class century during Otago's Plunket Shield match against Auckland at the University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Volts batsman Nick Beard receives applause from team-mate Sam Wells as he leaves the field after scoring his maiden first-class century during Otago's Plunket Shield match against Auckland at the University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
He batted beautifully in tandem with Neil Broom (103) and the pair put on 239 to break the Otago record fourth-wicket partnership of 235 set by Kevin Burns and Richard Hoskin against Northern Districts during the 1987-88 season.

Otago is in a commanding position at 438 for four having dismissed Auckland for 221.

Crucially, the Volts secured four batting bonus points while Central Districts failed to pick up any batting bonus points in its match with Canterbury in Rangiora.

Central's 13-point buffer at the top of table has been pruned to just nine points and Otago is well-placed to push on and secure the 12 points which come with an outright victory.

Beard was a key member of the Otago side which won the twenty/20 title and now he has played an innings of note in the Plunket Shield campaign and is likely to feature with the ball in the last two days of the game.

He grew in confidence the longer he stayed at the crease and played an innings any top-order batsmen would celebrate. His wagon wheel showed he had scored his runs all round the ground and, better still, it was a chanceless innings.

His running between the wickets was impeccable. And for a bloke who had never scored a club hundred, he maintained his concentration throughout, which was some feat, given he batted the entire day.

''It is nice to influence the game,'' Beard said.

''That is sort of what keeps you motivated out there. We thought if we can pile on runs and get a big lead and make sure we bat once, then we can put them under pressure in the second innings.

''I guess that is what kept me out there. I wanted to stay out there for the lads.

''I was getting a bit spent but Robbo [Iain Robertson, Otago 12th man] would come out and I'd have a banana and the situation of the game helped keep me motivated.''

Quite often batsmen will get to a 100 and give it away with a lapse of concentration. But, if anything, Beard just seemed to get more determined. He batted so well, Broom's fine innings faded into the background.

Broom brought up his 13th first-class century in emphatic style when he creamed a drive through the covers off the bowling of Michael Bates.

The former Black Cap has been the quiet achiever for Otago this season. He helped put on 291-runs for the third-wicket with Michael Bracewell in the huge win against Wellington last month.

He also played a vital innings of 146 to help save a game for Otago earlier in the season.

Spare a thought for Sam Wells. He was the batsman who was padded up when Broom and Bracewell batted for so long and he was in pads for most of yesterday while Beard and Broom strutted their stuff. He was seven not out at stumps, a good effort, considering how much nervous energy he probably burnt up waiting to bat.

Barry Milburn scored a century for Otago as a nightwatchman when he made 103 against Wellington at Molyneux Park in December, 1980.

After being bundled out for 252 by a Doug Bracewell-inspired Central Districts attack, Canterbury roared back into the match on the second day in Rangiora, APNZ reported.

The Wizards' bowlers struck early and often at the Mainpower Oval, and it was not until Bracewell joined Keiran Noema-Barnett that the visitor managed a partnership of any real significance. The pair were the only men to surpass 50 and Bracewell backed up his seven for 35 with the ball by top-scoring with 61.

Todd Astle and Ben McCord combined to take six wickets as Canterbury restricted CD to 249 and emerged with a slim first-innings advantage.

However, the Wizards lost both openers to Andrew Lamb to finish on 55 for two.

Peter Fulton's double failure (1 and 5) turned up the heat in the race for New Zealand's vacant opening spot for the upcoming test series against England.

Daniel Flynn, another main candidate to replace Brendon McCullum when he drops down the order, showed his ability in the position with a century on the second day of Northern Districts' clash with Wellington in Whangarei.

Flynn made 102, his 14th first class century, as the Knights ended the day on 344 for six, still trailing Wellington's first innings total of 423.