Cricket: Soper, Rutherford shine for Otago

Otago bowler Blair Soper in action on the first day of his side's Plunket Shield match against...
Otago bowler Blair Soper in action on the first day of his side's Plunket Shield match against Wellington at the University Oval yesterday. Soper took five for 76, as the visiting side was dismissed in its first innings for 254. The non-striker is Malaesaili Tugaga. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Andre Adams once took five wickets in a one-day international in Queenstown with memorably bad bowling.

Otago's Blair Soper matched that effort yesterday. The 21-year-old left-armer claimed his maiden five-wicket bag on the opening day of a Plunket Shield match against Wellington, at the University Oval.

His figures of five for 76 were somewhat flattering but he did claim the prize scalps of Jesse Ryder and the dangerous Luke Ronchi.

His efforts helped dismiss the visitor for a modest 254.

Otago's reply ran into early difficulty with opener Aaron Redmond out for eight, but at stumps the home side was in a healthy position at 139 for one, Hamish Rutherford unbeaten on 90 and Michael Bracewell with him on 36.

''We bowled well at times but it probably got away on us a little bit at the end,'' Otago captain Derek de Boorder said.

''But to bowl them out for 250-odd - we would have taken that at the start of the day.

The end of the  Dunedin's former art gallery is being  spruced up. Architect Ian Butcher  has...
The end of the Dunedin's former art gallery is being spruced up. Architect Ian Butcher has come up with a design featuring vertical stripes. A metal sculpture will be also fitted to it. The sculpture will have a matt finish, so as not to distract the batsmen.
''[Rutherford] played really well for us and hopefully he can continue that [today].''

Rutherford's timely innings comes in the same week he was named in a New Zealand XI to play England in two warm-up twenty/20 fixtures in Whangarei early next month.

The 23-year-old is being touted in some circles as a future test opener after scoring 607 runs last March.

So far this summer, first-class runs have been harder to come by. But he corrected that yesterday with a series of wonderful drives and cuts with the odd streaky boundary to third man thrown in.

He carved two sixes over backward point, one of which disappeared into the shrubs. He had good fortune in the last over, when he was caught at first slip off a no-ball.

The opening hour, bar two or three overs, was thoroughly unimpressive from the home side, though.

Soper was successful but he was also erratic. When he was not dropping too short, he was over-pitching and being whacked through the covers.

Sam Wells continued the theme, and James Fuller dished up some friendly deliveries which Wellington opener Michael Papps duly dispatched.

Papps' attacking instincts looked well-honed after a month of twenty/20 cricket and he scored some quick runs.

But when Fuller did hit a good line and length, he was very threatening. He watched with frustration as an edge from Papps' bat found the gap between third slip and gully. But he caught up with the edge of the batsman's bat again and this time the ball found the safe hands of de Border.

Soper got his first reward from a long hop. Josh Brodie mistimed the ball as far as Aaron Redmond at short mid-on.

That brought Ryder to the crease. The left-hander was in belligerent form during the twenty/20 tournament and pulled his first delivery through mid-wicket for four.

His seven-ball cameo ended when he wafted at a full delivery from Soper and his middle stump was sent cartwheeling.

Luke Woodcock should have been out in the second over after the break, when he mistimed a pull shot. The batsman had started to walk off but enjoyed a surprise pardon when the bowler, Soper, dropped the most basic of catches.

A brilliant piece of fielding from Iain Robertson made sure the experienced left-hander did not make Otago pay too dearly for the mistake. He hit the stumps to run him out and then took a sharp catch to remove Ronchi, before he could get set.

Harry Boam tried to flick Soper off his pads and was bowled. It was a decent enough ball but the batsman played around it and would be disappointed with his effort.

Soper completed his five-wicket bag by removing No 11 Malaesaili Tugaga for five.

Fuller's haul of four for 55 was more impressive. Despite a slow start, he warmed to his work and removed Stephen Murdoch for 48 when the batsman tried to tuck a ball off his hip.

Scott Kuggeleijn played a good hand for the visitors with a hard-hit 45 but was undone by the perfect ball from Fuller. It nipped back and hit the top of off-stump.

Mark Houghton frustrated the home side with an undefeated 34 to help his team pass 250 and pick up a batting bonus point, and Gillespie entertained with two fours and a six before coming unstuck against the pace of Fuller.

• Former New Zealand captain Ross Taylor returned to cricket with a whimper yesterday but his Central Districts side still took control of its Plunket Shield clash with Canterbury, APNZ reports.

Taylor was caught behind for four and left to watch the Stags reach 303 for eight declared at McLean Park, Napier.

Kyle Jarvis claimed the wicket of opener George Worker to leave Canterbury one for one at the close of play.

• In Hamilton, 22-year-old seamer Anurag Verma took seven for 82 in his second first-class game as Auckland was dismissed for 240.

Hawaii-born all-rounder Dusan Hakaraia, making his first-class debut, hit an unbeaten 141 at No 7.

ND recovered from the early loss of Joseph Yovich to reach 152 for one at stumps.

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