How superb in Stags' run-fest
Central Stags opener Jamie How isn't normally one to waste gilt-edged opportunities.
So, with a flat Saxton Oval wicket, some ideal batting conditions and a depleted Otago Volts bowling attack beckoning, the experienced right-hander took full advantage to post his highest first class score in Nelson yesterday on day three of their eighth round Plunket Shield match.
On a wicket that has so far also produced centuries to Otago batsmen Aaron Redmond and Jesse Ryder and four half centuries, How had reached a staggering unbeaten 194 by stumps, beating his previous best mark of 190 not out. He faced 235 balls and hit 24 fours and three sixes, while his skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett remained with him unbeaten on 68 after the pair had added 149 runs together in their unbroken fourth wicket stand.
The Stags were weighing up the possibilities after heading to stumps at 359 for 3 in their second innings. It had left the game interestingly poised with the Stags' increasing their overall lead to 395 runs with 105 overs available in today's final day.
Otago had resumed yesterday at 169 for 2, in reply to the Stags' first innings score of 307, with Redmond heading to stumps on Saturday unbeaten on 80 and Ryder at the other end on 40.
Both cruised to their respective milestones early in yesterday's first session, Ryder the first to his 50 - and seemingly unburdened by the maelstrom of controversy currrently surrounding him - when he drove Seth Rance through extra cover for four. Redmond followed shortly afterwards, bringing up his 15th first class century with a lofted four over midwicket off left arm spinner Ajaz Patel.
Redmond reached his ton off 136 balls in just over three hours of batting and hit 16 fours and a six. Ryder took 75 balls to post his 50, including nine fours.
But Redmond was gone in the day's 12th over, miscuing Patel to Will Young at cover on 108, having faced 150 balls and adding one further boundary to his tally. It also ended a superb 124-run third wicket stand with Ryder, Redmond departing with the total on 214.
Ryder took just 55 more deliveries to bring up his 17th first class century, surviving a chance off Patel at long-on on 75, to eventually steer Kieran Noema-Barnett for two through the slips region to reach his ton. It also prompted the declaration at 271 for 3, still 36 runs behind the Stags' first innings total, with Ryder finishing unbeaten on 100, having faced 120 balls and hitting 15 fours and a six. Nathan McCullum was 14 not out at the other end.
The Stags had progressed steadily through to 43 without loss in their second innings when opening batsman Ben Smith was forced to retire on 11 just prior to lunch after receiving a nasty blow to the head from a short-pitched delivery by Jimmy Neesham.
With injured bowlers James McMillan and Blair Soper still missing from the Otago attack, the Stags' momentum stalled again in the over before lunch when offspinner Mark Craig enticed Carl Cachopa out of his crease for Derek de Boorder to complete the stumping, the right-hander gone for 13 at 67 for 1 at the break.
How secured his 50 after the resumption, on-driving Sam Wells for four for his 10th boundary of the innings, having faced 69 balls.
Will Young (4) went to an excellent diving catch by Michael Bracewell at short leg to give Craig his second wicket of the innings at 101 for 2. That brought How and Nelson batsman Greg Hay together as the batting milestones continued to flow, How eventually posting the day's third century, off just 128 balls, and Hay his 50 in the same over off Wells as the Stags' lead eased to 235 runs at tea..
Hay finally went in the fourth over after the break, lbw to offspinner Nathan McCullum for a well-crafted 63 (10 fours), ending their 109-run partnership at 210 for 3.
Both How and Kieran Noema-Barnett began to target Otago's two slow bowlers with some big-hitting late in the day to help increase the scoring rate, How bringing up his 150 with a six off McCullum over wide long-on. Noema-Barnett also added his name to the game's growing list of half century-makers, having reached his 50 off 77 balls.