It's the story of the Wellington Firebirds' Plunket Shield season.
They were in a dominant position midway through day one against Canterbury at the Basin Reserve, but their four-pronged pace attack couldn't deliver the knockout blow yesterday.
It left honours relatively even between the two bottom teams as Canterbury posted 329-9 declared and Wellington openers Josh Brodie and Michael Papps negotiated two overs without incident in reply.
Their title hopes almost gone, Wellington will need a big day-and-a-bit at the crease to build a lead, then push for vital outright points against the only team below them on the ladder.
Wellington included four pacemen, with Tipene Friday added to the mix, and they got first crack after Canterbury captain Peter Fulton won the toss.
Fulton, hoping to unseat Martin Guptill from his test opener's berth, made a handy statement with 94 off 107 balls before Wellington seized command.
Canterbury lost 7-70 as Friday claimed the big wickets of Shanan Stewart (9) and test incumbent Dean Brownlie (13).
Then all-rounder Harry Boam claimed a triple strike even though he had every right to be a tad confused. Boam will play days one and two only, then be replaced by Grant Elliott who's resting under orders from New Zealand Cricket, before Boam returns for day four to replace gloveman Luke Ronchi who departs on NZ XI duty against England in Whangarei.
Boam (3-33) ripped through the middle order and Canterbury looked ill at 201-7 when Tom Latham departed.
There was wag in the tail, though, as Brent Findlay and Ryan McCone added 70 for the eighth wicket, then McCone and No 11 Tim Johnston added an unbeaten 55 before Fulton declared. Senior paceman Mark Gillespie couldn't push past 298 first-class wickets as he toiled 19 overs for 1-77.
In Auckland, runs flowed on the second day as unwanted Wellington batsman Craig Cachopa plundered and Central Districts fought back.
Cachopa, who scored a century against his old team on Eden Park before Christmas, blazed 145 at the same ground as Auckland posted 348 in reply to the Stags' 233.
Injury-troubled paceman Bevan Small made an excellent return to Stags colours with 5-61 to limit the damage.
Trailing by 115, the Plunket Shield leaders made a much better fist of their second dig and at stumps were 107-0, the deficit almost wiped and Jamie How and Jeet Raval each posting half-centuries.
In Queenstown, a rejuvenated Ian Butler took 6-65 for high-flying Otago as they skittled Northern Districts for 217 on day one.
In reply, Otago were looking good at 135-2, with in-form opener Hamish Rutherford 82 not out.
- The Dominion Post
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