Stags notch second win of season
The Central Stags outlasted the Otago Volts in a war of attrition to complete a 134-run outright win in their Plunket Shield cricket match in Nelson.
With both teams haemorrhaging broken bowlers over the past four days, a severely depleted Stags bowling attack eventually prevailed on a flat Saxton Oval wicket late yesterday when Seth Rance trapped James McMillan lbw for a first ball duck to dismiss the Volts for 277 runs.
A maiden first class double century to Jamie How and a spectacular hat-trick by seamer Kieran Noema-Barnett had earlier provided some essential ingredients to the Stags' victory.
A fighting career-best century by Otago's No 6 batsman Jimmy Neesham had also seriously stalled Central's progress. But an injury-stricken Stags bowling attack eventually overcame Otago's dogged tailend resistance to complete just their second win of the season. With Otago on the brink of defeat at 252 for 8, No 9 batsman Mark Craig faced 95 balls for his 15 runs and Blair Soper a further 67 to finish 4 not out when the win was eventually secured.
The Stags began the day at 359 for 3, an overall lead of 395 runs, with Jamie How unbeaten on 194 and Noema-Barnett on 68. It took just three overs after the resumption of play for How to reach his maiden double century, steering Neesham to third man for two and prompting a hug from his batting partner and the deserved applause of his team-mates.
Noema-Barnett was gone two overs later, bowled by offspinner Nathan McCullum for 69 to end their mammoth 156-run stand at 366 for 4. But despite their daunting 402-run lead, the Stags continued to bat on, with opener Ben Smith returning to the crease after he'd retired hurt on Sunday following a blow to the head.
The declaration finally came after 15.1 overs at 375 for 4, How remaining unbeaten on 207 off 274 balls, including 25 fours and three sixes, and leaving Otago a victory target of 412 runs off a minimum 91 overs.
The Stags struck immediately in Otago's reply when Rance had first innings century-maker Aaron Redmond trapped lbw for a third-ball duck.
Then Noema-Barnett struck, Neil Broom edging the fourth ball of the seamer's second over to How at second slip, Jesse Ryder falling next ball to a diving Greg Hay, also at slip, before McCullum edged the final ball of the over through to wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk as Otago slumped alarmingly to 20 for 4. Ryder had also scored an unbeaten first innings century.
Noema-Barnett became the sixth Central Districts player to achieve the feat in a first class match.
"I don't think I've even been close [to a hat-trick] before," said the delighted Stags' skipper during the post-match celebrations.
"You bowl the ball but you don't really expect to get three wickets in three balls. There was quite a bit of luck, I guess . . . and the good players who were able to nick it I guess helped as well.
"We bowled really well a couple of guys down and it's pleasing to walk off a pretty flat wicket with a win, which was great."
Neesham led Otago's fightback, posting a half century off just 48 balls, including nine fours, as the Volts limped to the lunch break at 103 for 4, still a distant 309 runs shy of their target. The Stags had missed a huge opportunity just before the break when Neesham offered a difficult chance to deep mid-on.
Rance finally achieved the breakthrough, Michael Bracewell loosely edging him to Noema-Barnett at third slip for 46 at 135 for 5 to end a dogged 115-run partnership.
Although apparently holding the upper hand, the Stags' bowling attack faced increasing pressure after also losing Bevan Small, Carl Cachopa and Noema-Barnett to injuries. And with Neesham batting solidly at one end, eventually securing his second first class century off a breezy 85 balls, Neesham's continued occupation of the crease still kept the run rate hovering around the demanding original asking rate of 4.52 runs per over.
Neesham played a superb counter-attacking role, joining Sam Wells in a critical 70-run partnership before Wells' dismissal for 19 at 205 for 6 set off some alarm bells in the Otago camp.
With Neesham crucial to Otago's survival, he helped carry them through to 229 for 6 at tea, still unbeaten on 138, Otago needing 183 runs off 33 overs at 5.55 and the Stags hunting down four wickets in the final session.
Left arm spinner Ajaz Patel delivered the critical blow in the second over after the interval when he finally found the edge of Neesham's bat, van Wyk holding the sharp chance to send the left-hander on his way for a superb 147, having faced 135 balls and hitting 17 fours and four sixes.
At 238 for 7, any notions of an Otago victory had long since evaporated. Derek de Boorder went at 252 for 8 and eventually the determined Craig at 277 for 9, Rance ending the match with the first ball of the 90th over.