After a false start, returning New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor has a chance to sprint back into gear today for Central Districts in Napier.
Dismissed for four in his comeback innings from a two-month hiatus on Thursday, Taylor will resume today on 22 not out at McLean Park as the Stags hold an 88-run lead over Canterbury. At stumps they were 77-2 in their second innings of an evenly poised contest, with the in-form Carl Cachopa also set to launch on 33.
"He [Taylor] looked comfortable, he played some nice shots and played nice and straight. Hopefully he can put on a bit of a show," Stags coach Alan Hunt said.
"Time at the wicket is all that he needs. If he gets in, it could be some good viewing."
Taylor, eyeing a return to New Zealand colours in the February 9 Twenty20 international against England in Auckland, was dismissed by Canterbury left-armer Ryan McCone on Thursday. And McCone, comfortably the pick of the visiting bowlers, did more damage yesterday by removing Jamie How and Jeet Raval cheaply in their second innings.
Central, who lead the Plunket Shield by 17 points, counted themselves fortunate to lead by 11 runs on the first innings after test batsman Dean Brownlie looked well set. After crafting 88, Brownlie was removed by part-timer Cachopa, then all-rounder Andrew Ellis (87) became one of paceman Andrew Mathieson's four victims. Mathieson (4-79) and Zimbabwean Kyle Jarvis (4-40) helped dismiss Canterbury for 292 on a pitch still offering assistance to the new ball.
"We misread the wicket and if we had our time over again we might have bowled first," Hunt said.
"They [Canterbury] had the best of the batting conditions so for us to eke out a small lead was pretty good."
Wellington, meanwhile, are in grave danger of slipping well off the shield pace as Otago seized control of their match in Dunedin.
The scene of their Twenty20 final defeat continues to haunt the Firebirds who trail by 316, with their hosts showing no signs of letting up.
At stumps on day two at University Oval, Otago were 570-5 in reply to Wellington's 254, thanks to centuries from Michael Bracewell and Neil Broom.
Resuming on 139-1, Otago lost opener Hamish Rutherford early for 90, then roared past the Firebirds' total. Bracewell hit five sixes in his 190 and Broom struck 134 as the pair added 291 for the third wicket.
In his comeback match from injury, Mark Gillespie (3-117) carried the Wellington attack while Ili Tugaga and Scott Kuggeleijn were expensive and left-arm spinners Luke Woodcock and Mark Houghton toiled for 39 wicketless overs between them.
In Hamilton, Daniel Flynn put his hand up for a return to the test opener's slot with 166 as Northern Districts were similarly dominant against Auckland.
Flynn, after a poor series in South Africa at No 5, moved up the order for Northern and led them to 530-5 at stumps in reply to Auckland's 240.
The left-hander opened in the Wellington test against South Africa in March and with New Zealand coach Mike Hesson saying spots at the top against England were up for grabs, Flynn took his chance.
"There's guys ahead of me in the queue, so I've got to put pressure on. And if you're scoring runs selectors have got to be looking at you," Flynn said.
Brad Wilson (139) and James Marshall (102) also plundered an Auckland attack containing test squad members Chris Martin (2-102) and Bruce Martin (2-194).
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is cricket still NZ's top summer sport?Related story: Rain can't save Black Caps from big defeat