Central on track for title

Eleven brief overs of batting at Nelson's Saxton Oval yesterday were enough to signal Central Districts' intent as they attempt to close in on this season's Plunket Shield championship title.

At stumps on day one of their final round four-day championship cricket match against Northern Districts, Central were comfortably placed at 46 without loss in reply to Northern's 267.

And it was the positive nature of both openers, Jeet Raval and Jamie How, that pointed to Central's determination to secure the title some time over the next three days after entering the final round with a nine-point lead on the field.

Otago are the only other side with a chance of taking the title but, with Central's fate now squarely in their own hands, they won't be relinquishing their hold on the trophy without a major fight.

Raval was unbeaten on 27 and How on 17 at stumps and both were looking set to prosper in what should be ideal batting conditions today.

Raval had faced 34 balls and hit five boundaries, while How's unbeaten 32-ball innings included just two boundaries in the 43 minutes batting available to them ahead of today's expected run surge.

Half centuries by Daryl Mitchell and James Marshall had helped keep Northern well in the fight earlier in the day.

Mitchell's 72-run effort was the critical contribution in Northern's innings while a resilient Marshall returned to the crease after an early injury scare to score 54 runs and bring some late momentum to Northern's innings of 267 off 85.4 overs.

Mitchell batted for a pinch over four hours, faced 153 balls and hit just five boundaries. Yet his patient innings came to a surprisingly tame end when he fended at a ball from Andrew Lamb outside his offstump and offered a simple catch to Matt Sinclair at first slip in the day's final session.

He'd been part of a dogged 87-run fifth wicket partnership with first class debutant Cameron Fletcher, but their stand came to an abrupt end just before the tea break when Fletcher was hopelessly run out for 34.

He'd just survived an lbw appeal from legspinner Tarun Nethula when he saw Mitchell advancing down the pitch in search of a single. Seniority ultimately prevailed, Fletcher dutifully sacrificing his wicket by almost the length of the pitch.

Earlier, Joe Yovich had been the first to go, caught at slip off Ben Wheeler for 17 with the total at 34 before fellow opener Daniel Flynn went four runs later, trapped lbw by Doug Bracewell for 14. Brad Wilson and Daryl Mitchell carried the score through to 56 when Wilson pulled Andrew Mathieson innocuously to square leg for 17.

A confident Corey Anderson helped Mitchell take Northern through to 99 for 3 at lunch. But Mathieson achieved the breakthrough in the second over after lunch when he bowled Anderson for 27 at 101-4.

Marshall's innings had initially been cut short when he took a full toss from Mathieson flush on his left arm, forcing him from the field with his score on just six in the 37th over.

He returned following Fletcher's unfortunate demise to add a further 48 runs off 81 balls, hitting six boundaries, before he was bowled by Bracewell at 267-8.

Wheeler ended the innings with two wickets in the 86th over to finish with 3-35, Bracewell taking 2-53 and Mathieson 2-42 as part of a disciplined and concerted Central bowling attack.

Meanwhile, at the Basin Reserve, in Wellington, Central's title rival Otago bowled the home side out for 255 and were well-placed at 113-2 by the end of yesterday's play.

The Stags held a nine-point lead over Otago going into their respective final round matches.

SCOREBOARD NORTHERN DISTRICTS first innings D Flynn lbw b Bracewell 14 J Yovich c Raval b Wheeler 17 B Wilson c Wheeler b Mathieson 17 D Mitchell c Sinclair b Lamb 72 C Anderson b Mathieson 17 J Marshall b Bracewell 54 C Fletcher run out 34 I Sodhi lbw b Nethula 2 J Boult c Lamb b Wheeler 13 A Verma not out 0 B Arnel b Wheeler 0 Extras (5b, 11lb, 1nb) 17 Total (85.4 overs) 267 Fall: 34, 38, 56, 101, 188, 215, 230, 267, 267, 267 Bowling: D Bracewell 19-5-53-2, B Wheeler 15.4-3-35-3, A Mathieson 16-2-42-2, A Lamb 13-0-66-1, K Noema-Barnett 7-2-14-0, T Nethula 13-2-36-1 (1nb), C Cachopa 2-0-5-0. CENTRAL DISTRICTS first innings J Raval not out 27 J How not out 17 Extras (2lb) 2 Total (for 0 wkts, 11 overs) 46 Bowling: B Arnel 5-2-18-0, A Verma 5-1-22-0, I Sodhi 1-0-4-0.

The Nelson Mail