Wellington are confident a final day run chase of 300-plus is within their grasp against Central Districts after another seesawing day left their Plunket Shield match evenly poised in Napier.
CD pair Doug Bracewell and William Young will stride out to face the second new ball at Nelson Park today looking to build on their crucial 45-run seventh-wicket stand.
It lifted a cautious home lineup to 223-6 in their second innings, a lead of 266 as the Firebirds took day three honours in an intriguing contest.
Jesse Ryder boomed the Firebirds back into the contest with an unbeaten 117 - his 11th first-class century - before he ran out of partners.
It was enough to reduce the first innings deficit to a respectable 43. With Ryder in rich early season form and a deep batting lineup, senior all-rounder Luke Woodcock felt a target of a tick over 300 would leave Wellington right in the game.
"We've got the new ball available and we'll try and knock them over. That [300-plus] is a pretty good chase on any day four wicket. It's playing pretty true now so we'll back ourselves to chase that down," Woodcock said.
"It's dried out from that first day and the forecast is good. The batters will look forward to batting on it."
New captain Stephen Murdoch used seven bowlers yesterday and rotated them soundly, with Grant Elliott and Woodcock the two key partnership-breakers.
Elliott removed first innings century-maker Carl Cachopa and opener Jamie How in consecutive overs which set the innings back, before Mark Gillespie claimed the big wicket of Mathew Sinclair, caught behind for 24.
Woodcock, who'd snared his 100th first-class wicket in the first innings, was the seventh bowler summoned by Murdoch after Jeetan Patel was economical but wheeled down his 40th wicketless over of the match.
The left-armer had test gloveman Kruger van Wyk snaffled by Ryder, then nicked out captain Kieran Noema-Barnett for 60.
"We were on the front foot most of the day and we've got ourselves in a position to have a good crack at their score," Woodcock said.
"We've got really good variety in our attack and [Murdoch] made use of us. All the bowlers played their part and I was able to contribute."
Gillespie (2-67 off 16) and Andy McKay (0-21 off 12) will be unleashed with the new ball this morning, hoping to give their batsmen under 300 to chase off more than 80 overs.
Bracewell, rested from the limited overs segment of the Sri Lanka tour, looked ominous on 34 off 37 balls and will hold the key for CD with bat and ball.
Both sides would feel they're right in the contest, with Wellington's sometimes fragile confidence of recent seasons in need of a boost.
"There's been a bit of talk about our pre-season, which went really well, and we've shown some of that throughout the three days. If we can have another consistent day I'd like to think we'd get over the line. It'd be ideal. The guys have worked really hard," Woodcock said.
In Rangiora, Otago claimed the first outright victory of the season as former test opener Aaron Redmond led them to an eight-wicket victory over Canterbury.
Chasing 267, Redmond's 123 off 186 balls and Michael Bracewell's unbeaten 88 saw Otago cruise to their target.
Redmond totalled 256 runs for the match and became one of eight batsmen to score a hundred in each innings for Otago, joining southern cricketing royalty Glenn Turner and Bert Sutcliffe as multiple achievers of the feat.
Canterbury did well to set Otago so many, after trailing by 86 on the first innings then falling to 2-3 in the second.
Todd Astle's second half-century of the match helped their cause as he and debutant Ben McCord (47) added 108 for the ninth wicket.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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