Wellington's Firebirds hope a Jesse Ryder onslaught today can haul them back into their Plunket Shield match after some flaky batting left them staring down the barrel against Central Districts.
Aside from Ryder, and to a lesser extent Michael Papps and Stephen Murdoch, the Firebirds' powerful batting lineup fluffed their lines on day two in Napier, leaving them trailing by 129 with two wickets in hand.
Ryder will resume at Nelson Park on 84 not out off 83 balls, in sight of his 11th first-class century, after a mature recovery mission to guide Wellington to 254 for eight. Big hitters Mark Gillespie and Dane Hutchinson are his only company though, in reply to CD's first innings of 383 for eight declared.
"We were trying to be positive and a couple of guys got out playing their shots. We didn't quite execute. The biggest disappointment is we couldn't nail some big partnerships to put them on the back foot," said Papps, who scored 52 before padding up to Kieran Noema-Barnett.
Openers Papps and Murdoch (48) put on 102 before captain Noema-Barnett removed both in quick succession. Despite Doug Bracewell going wicketless and bowling seven no-balls, Wellington lost four for 38 as Ben Wheeler and Andrew Mathieson chipped in.
Experienced middle-order men Grant Elliott, Luke Woodcock and Luke Ronchi missed out while Ryder made it look easy at the other end.
"Jesse was positive and played his shots but showed a lot of maturity towards the end because they had 10 fielders on the boundary for the last hour. He played sensibly and took the singles and was the anchor for us," Papps said.
Ryder hit eight boundaries in his first first-class innings since February, in conditions described by Papps as tricky for batting. That gave Wellington hope their pacemen, Gillespie, Andy McKay and Hutchinson, could cause problems in the third innings.
"It was a bit difficult [to bat on]. There was still a little bit in the wicket and the ball stayed reasonably new. When our bowlers got it right, life was difficult for the batsmen, conversely it's quite good for scoring when the bowlers don't quite get it right."
Wellington at least recovered from what appeared a dire situation with CD resuming on 301 for three and Mathew Sinclair well set on 135, his 35th first-class ton.
Sinclair added eight runs before he was removed by Gillespie, which sparked a mini-collapse of five for 72. McKay (3-63) ended with the best figures as CD declared eight down, denying Wellington the chance of a final bowling point.
Meanwhile, Otago paceman Neil Wagner is confident he will be fit to tour Sri Lanka with the New Zealand test squad this month despite being concussed by friendly fire in Rangiora. As Wagner bent down to pick up a ball during warmups for day three of Otago's match with Canterbury yesterday, a wayward Michael Bracewell throw thumped into Wagner's right cheekbone.
He bowled nine balls at the start of the day but when he started coughing up blood, he left the field and headed for a doctor.
"It was a bit scary but the doctor said it was just from my sinuses," he said.
Wagner will not bowl during today's fourth day but will bat if required.
He expects to play in Otago's next match, which starts in Hamilton on Sunday.
Unwanted test batsman Dean Brownlie got Canterbury back into the game and sent a message to the selectors with a fighting knock of 113, his fifth first-class century.
Starting the day at two for three and still 87 runs behind Otago's first innings of 383, the Wizards were in deep trouble.
However, the absence of Wagner and James McMillan to an ankle problem, combined with Brownlie's five-hour vigil, made it Canterbury's day. They reached stumps at 307 for eight, a lead of 221. Fairfax NZ
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