This isn't unfamiliar territory for Central Districts.
For the second time in three seasons they lead the Plunket Shield after three rounds, following yesterday's comprehensive eight-wicket win over Northern Districts in Gisborne.
The last time the Stags were in this spot, in late 2010, they didn't win another four-day match all season. Being New Zealand's representative at the Champions League Twenty20 tournament that year took quite a toll on CD and they limped to the Plunket Shield finish line in third place.
"What's different this time, I think, is there's still some real improvement left in the side and we've got a depth of player now that we haven't had historically," Stags coach Alan Hunt said.
"We've got competition for places and people want to play and if we want to rest people we can. We haven't had the luxury before, particularly with our bowling attack."
The return of Ben Wheeler to full fitness and Adam Milne from international duty gave CD's attack some teeth in Gisborne. The lively Harry Barker Reserve pitch didn't hurt either and once the Stags won the toss and bowled, they were always on track to win.
Both Wheeler and Milne took six wickets in the match, while the latter's runs also helped. Batting in reply to ND's first innings of 183, CD made 341, thanks in part to the 38 Milne made at No 11.
While the odd team innings seems to revolve around the fortunes of one or two players, Hunt said CD work exceedingly hard to get contributions from everyone.
"No one person is expected to carry it. Everyone can bat, whether they're listed at 11 or listed at seven or six or whatever, so that's really pleasing," he said.
"That was important on a wicket like this one, which was one of those ones that you were never really in on. Guys worked really hard, we rotated the strike and I think we hit 90 singles, which is a lot for us, because typically we hit a lot of boundaries.
"There's a certain amount of pride in being able to bat and none of our guys want to bat 11. We had Milney get 38 and he probably won't bat 11 again, after that."
Needing a further 93 runs to win yesterday morning, the Stags managed that for the loss of just Jamie How and Carl Cachopa and now lead the Plunket Shield by 14 points from Otago.
But it's Twenty20 cricket that's now on the agenda for the Stags, when they're hosted by ND in Hamilton on Friday. Star import Peter Trego might be in their lineup, although there's still some negotiation going on there.
The Somerset allrounder isn't officially due till next month, but could be on deck, Hunt said.
Black Caps allrounder Jacob Oram won't be, having made himself unavailable for personal reasons.
Meanwhile, play in the Plunket Shield clash between Wellington and Canterbury was abandoned without a ball bowled yesterday. Canterbury will hopefully resume today on 91 for two, still 148 runs behind Wellington's first innings of 239.
- The Dominion Post
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