CD secure Plunket Shield
It was all a bit anti-climactic in the finish.
It certainly didn't diminish the value of Central Districts' Plunket Shield championship success at Nelson's Saxton Oval on Saturday. But with Central chasing a demanding 285-run second innings victory target against Northern Districts, the trophy's fate was ultimately decided across Cook Strait.
News quickly filtered through to Saxton during the second session drinks break that Otago, the only remaining team in contention for the title, had just lost outright to Wellington. So, with Central having entered the final round with a nine-point lead over Otago, the title was secured, eventually by 10 points.
It was during the 2005-06 season that a Central Districts captain, Jarrod Englefield, last held the trophy aloft, following a 113-run win over Wellington in the final. For current skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett though, it's been well worth the wait.
"I'm happy," said a beaming and champagne-soaked Noema-Barnett following Saturday's trophy presentation.
"It's pure pleasure, mate. It's fantastic, and it's my first four-day trophy, and I'm sure it's a lot of the boys' first four-day trophy as well.
"They're hard to [achieve] and when you get them, they're obviously great."
"You can't take anything for granted, I guess, but to get across the line like that, even though it was a draw, to me, any way to win the Plunket Shield's a good way.
"We've played some pretty good four-day cricket. Probably at times we've been a little bit lucky, but different guys have stood up at different times and contributed, and that's the main thing about [being] a good team."
Noema-Barnett paid tribute to a gutsy Northern batting effort, highlighted by a superb unbeaten second-innings century to former international James Marshall.
"Today was going to be a tough chase, without doubt. They played well and denied us on a pretty good wicket, and we would have been pretty hard up against it to get those runs, but we would have backed ourselves."
Play was finally abandoned at tea, with Central at 116 for 2 and an aggressive Jamie How unbeaten on 84 off just 63 balls, having collected 12 fours and three big sixes.
News of Otago's 54-run loss to Wellington had earlier been greeted with celebratory whoops of delight from the Central players during the drinks break. The two not out batsmen, How and Carl Cachopa, allowed themselves a mid-pitch embrace.
It provided a massive pressure release for Central, knowing they didn't have to secure outright points, leaving How and Mat Sinclair to bat out the remaining overs until tea.
Resuming the final day at 285 for 6, Northern's batsmen had earlier shown plenty of fight.
Marshall completed a superb match double, following a 72 in the first innings with his 13th first-class century in the second, continuing from his overnight score of 94 to reach his milestone in the day's sixth over.
He ended the innings unbeaten on 156 after the morning session had again proved an exercise in frustration for Central's bowlers.
The immovable Marshall received excellent support from Anurag Verma and a gutsy Ish Sodhi, batting at No 10 with a strained quad muscle.
Marshall added 37 runs with Verma (25) for the eighth wicket ahead of a remarkable 98-run partnership with a battling Sodhi for the ninth. Sodhi's contribution was a gritty 51 off 111 balls, including six boundaries, after he'd survived a one-handed diving chance at gully with his score on 14.
Marshall and Sodhi carried the score through to 406 for 8 at lunch, a lead of 255 runs. Marshall was dropped on 137 at second slip off the second ball after the break, before Doug Bracewell finally made the breakthrough, wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk holding an excellent low chance off Sodhi to finally offer Central some relief at 422 for 9.
Northern skipper Brad Wilson declared shortly afterwards at 435 for 9, leaving Marshall unbeaten after a 353-minute stay at the crease, having faced 204 balls and hit 20 boundaries.
Central's left-arm seamer Ben Wheeler earned the bowling accolades after snaring just his second first-class five-wicket bag, finishing with 5-91 off 25 overs.
Wheeler's ability to snare wickets soon after restarts earmarked a memorable performance for the young Marlborough bowler, after he took 3-35 in the first innings.
Bracewell took 3-92 off 29.3 overs in his second-innings contribution.
The Nelson Mail