Cricket: Shield still in balance on last day

Derek de Boorder
Derek de Boorder
Who said first-class cricket is boring? The tournament concludes today and two teams are still in the hunt for the Plunket Shield - Otago and Central Districts.

Otago has played some marvellous cricket this summer and with an ounce more luck may return to Dunedin with a second trophy, having already won the twenty/20 tournament this season.

The Volts will need to knock off what shapes as a modest target of around 200 runs in its match with Wellington at the Basin Reserve and hope Northern Districts can continued to hold off Central's march to victory across the strait in Nelson.

It promises to be one of the most exciting finishes to the first-class competition since Otago last won the title in 1987-88 - 25 long years ago.

Otago won on that occasion courtesy of a superior runs per wicket differential after finishing level on points with Auckland.

First things first, Otago needs to take one more Wellington wicket and then bat well to make sure it secures the 12 points awarded for an outright win.

At stumps on day three, Wellington was 308 for nine and nursing a lead of 185.

It could be a tricky little chase for Otago, although the team's form of late suggests a target of about 200 should be easily within reach.

Central has more to do to win its fixture. Northern was 285 for six at stumps and has a small lead of 134, thanks to a damaging partnership between James Marshall and Corey Anderson. The pair added 155 to equal Northern's fifth-wicket partnership record against all-comers.

If Northern can hold on for a draw and Otago beats Wellington, the Volts will leapfrog Central and bring the 25-year drought to an end.

''Everybody up here knows how much [today] means,'' Otago captain Derek de Boorder said.

''The first session will be the telling one in terms of how both matches play out. What happens in Nelson is out of our control, so we just have to concentrate on our game.

''We bowled all right in periods but the deck got pretty flat and the breeze was quite strong, so it was hard work. But if we pick up a quick wicket, then I think we would have been happy if you said to us we'd be chasing 200 on the final day - we would have probably taken that at the start of the match.''

Wellington resumed on 33 for one, needing another 90 runs to make Otago bat again.

Otago did not have to wait long for a breakthrough. Neil Wagner got a delivery past the defence of Wellington captain Stephen Murdoch and picked up Michael Pollard's wicket in his next over, leaving the home side reeling at 45 for three.

Joshua Brodie and Luke Woodcock held up Otago's progress, digging in and adding 47 for the fourth wicket.

Nick Beard, who was at his frugal best, bowling maiden after maiden, bowled Brodie for 32. He also assisted in the run out of the dangerous Luke Ronchi for 22.

Woodcock got his side in front with a stubborn 62 from 129 deliveries and Harry Boam chipped in with 26.

It appeared Otago would be chasing a very small total but Scott Kuggeleijn (68) and Jeetan Patel frustrated the bowling attack with a valuable partnership of 99 for the eighth-wicket.

Patel is undefeated on 53 and will resume today.

Canterbury completed a comfortable nine-wicket win against Auckland at Hagley Oval. Auckland mustered 170 in its second innings, setting Canterbury a paltry target of 42.