Otago dig in as pitch shows ominous signs

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012

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Canterbury coach Gary Stead believes the Wizards are well placed at the midway point of their second-round Plunket Shield match against Otago in Dunedin - and he's glad they're not batting last.

Otago were bowled out for 272 on what was the final ball of the second day yesterday.

It gave them an 18-run lead.

A "poor cricket wicket" has made batting difficult and runs tough to come by but Stead believed his side were in the box seat with Otago having to bat last.

"It's a poor cricket wicket because it lacks bounce and pace and grass cover," he said.

"It's just so low and hard to score, especially if you run the field."

Stead expected the University Oval pitch to get more up and down and tougher to bat on during the next two days.

Should Canterbury start well this morning, Stead believes they will be able to dictate the pace of the game and put Otago under pressure.

Otago started well yesterday and were 71-1, then three quick wickets reduced them to 74-4.

Even when Otago were 174-7 and still trailing by 80 runs, Canterbury were right in charge.

Important contributions late in the innings by Jimmy Neesham (40), Mark Craig (40) and Ian Butler (41) helped the Volts to an important first-innings lead.

Tim Johnston was again Canterbury's best bowler returning taking 3-88 from 39 overs into the wind, while debutants Will Williams (1-27) and Cole McConchie (2-32) picked up their first first-class wickets.

"TJ did a great job for us bowling pretty much nonstop into the wind and Cole did really well too. But it was hard work and I think the medium pacers did a good job as well," Stead said.

"There's not a lot of help for them in the wicket, though it does reverse around a bit."

The Otago lower order was much more aggressive than any of the more recognised batsmen from either side, something Stead said Canterbury could learn from.

"You at least have to look to be scoring," he said.

"And, if we can get going tomorrow - and it will again probably come down to just one partnership - then we will be in a good position."

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