On a day made for wicket-taking, Northern Knights seamer Graeme Aldridge took the opportunity to grab a swag to reach a significant milestone.
The 35-year-old captured 5-45 in his side's Plunket Shield encounter against the Canterbury Wizards at Hamilton's Seddon Park to draw level with Cliff Dickeson as Northern Districts greatest wicket-taker in their first-class cricketing history.
Aldridge's haul took his tally to 282 as the hosts eked out a small advantage midway through the four-day match which saw wickets tumble crazily and later admitted that the achievement gave him great satisfaction.
"It's something that you look at when you get there only - at least that's what I like to do," Aldridge said.
"But it is something I've worked towards and I'm very proud to have reached it - Cliff's held that record for a very long time. It's very pleasing."
Aldridge debuted in the 1998/99 season and the current game is his 98th first-class match - putting him sixth on the all-time ND list for appearances - and he already holds the mark as the association's most prolific one-day wicket-taker.
Left-arm spinner Dickeson collected his 282 wickets between 1973-85 and Aldridge, who began the season 10 behind the record, missed the opening match of the season as he continued to recover from off-season surgery on his ankle.
It was also Aldridge's 12th five-wicket bag in the first-class arena, drawing him level at the top of the ND honours board in that category with another left-arm spinner, Bruce Martin.
A staggering 18 wickets fell in the first two sessions as the wicket offered plenty of sideways movement off the seam for the quick bowlers.
Resuming at 125 for two, the Knights failed to even bat until lunch during an extended first session to make up for time lost on day one.
They were dismissed for 200, continuing a horror run this season from the defending Plunket Shield champions that has seen them fail to surpass 208 in four first innings efforts this season.
However, they were soon allowed some leeway for their woes when the visitors struggled mightily in return.
They rapidly slumped to 27-5 before recently returned Black Caps test debutant Todd Astle and imported allrounder Gareth Andrew decided indiscretion was the better part of valour.
Astle played aggressively and with aplomb to net 53 off just 45 balls, with nine fours and a six, while Andrew backed up his three wickets with the game's top score to date.
He threw the bat and rode some good fortune to reach 89 off 69 deliveries (13 fours and two sixes) before being run out as the Wizards finished their first dig 14 short of the hosts.
"It was helpful that it got us back in the game as well," Aldridge said of his haul.
"The new ball was doing a lot and we took advantage of that and the rain that freshened the wicket overnight."
As the late afternoon sun continued to bake the pitch, the vastly experienced ND duo of James Marshall and Joseph Yovich made batting - and surviving - appear a less herculean task than in the previous two sessions.
Marshall looked to be bold when possible and was strong driving in getting to 61 off 74 balls before dancing past one from off-spinner Cole McConchie while Yovich, who has been the rock of an underperforming top order this campaign, mixed dogged defence with timely scoring shots to finish unbeaten on 48 as the Knights reached 116-3 at stumps.
Both sides picked up the maximum return of four bowling points from the first innings and were left with the game well advanced towards a much-needed outright win over the last two days, but poor weather is forecast.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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