Cricket: Bittersweet knock for Bracewell

Otago opening batsman Michael Bracewell plays a hook shot. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago opening batsman Michael Bracewell plays a hook shot. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago batsman Michael Bracewell was still able to manage a smile despite being dismissed three runs short of a maiden century.

It was a excellent innings after all and has helped put Otago in a reasonable position at stumps on day one of its Plunket Shield match against Auckland at the University Oval.

The home side reached 309 for nine before poor light forced an early end.

The old warhorse, Chris Martin, starred for the visiting side with five for 105.

The Black Caps test bowler ran in hard, picked up the key wicket of Neil Broom and ran through the middle order with a superb spell.

But it was a 20-year-old playing in his second first-class match who emerged as the story of the day.

Getting out in the 90s is a harsh lesson.

But once the initial disappointment had worn off, Bracewell was able to reflect on a job well done.

"It is funny. Obviously, I'm really happy to get [97] - but it is one of those bittersweet things isn't?", he said.

"You are always going to be disappointed to get so close to a milestone like that."

The left-hander batted so well for the majority of his four-hour stay at the crease.

But when he got within reach of the century he started feeling jittery.

His scoring tempo lifted and he appeared impatient.

He whacked a short delivery from international Daryl Tuffey over fine leg for six to move into the 90s.

While the shot looked impressive it was the first indication of nerves setting in and instinct taking over.

He scampered through for a quick single which would have ended badly had Michael Bates' throw hit the stumps, and then fell for Tuffey's trap when he lashed out at a rising bouncer moments later.

It dropped safely, but through good luck rather than good placement.

With his heart still beating fast, he had a rush of blood and attempted to knock the remaining three runs off in one shot by lofting a Bruce Martin delivery over the long on boundary.

He missed - Martin did not.

Bracewell sank to one knee in anguish and clutched at his bat as if he needed it for support to stop him sliding further into the abyss.

It was a horrible moment but a valuable learning experience for the talented batsman and a memory which will serve him well for the remainder of his career.

"Hopefully, I'll be in that situation again and learn from it and go about it differently.

"I'll need to calm myself down a little bit because I probably did get caught up in the moment quite a bit."

Bracewell had a couple of earlier escapes.

He was dropped in the slips when he was in the 60s and should have been out first ball.

He got an inside edge on to his pad but Bradley Cachopa, fielding in close, dropped the simplest of catches.

Darren Broom was the other outstanding batsman on display.

He looked in good touch and was particularly brutal on anything short, getting into position quickly and swivelling with the shot.

He also played some delightful drives through the covers and one or two streaky shots down to third man.

His luck ran out on 75 when he got a faint edge through to the slip cordon.

Neil Wagner added some valuable runs down the order with a rapid half-century.

Play will resume at the earlier time of 10.12am with the last pair of Wagner (51) and Nick Beard (5) looking to push on.

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