Wellington struggle as Canterbury press for win
Captain Andrew Ellis is crediting a batting tip from an unlikely source as one of the reasons for his excellent double in Canterbury's Plunket Shield match against Wellington in Rangiora.
Ellis' 109, his second first-class century, batting at No 7 stamped an exclamation mark on Canterbury's second innings, putting the hosts in pole position for victory on the final day.
Wellington are 187-4 in their second innings, chasing a mammoth 470 to win after the hosts declared their second innings at 376-8.
Resuming at 192-6 today, with a lead of 285, Canterbury were not out of the woods.
They needed a partnership, and Ellis and Todd Astle provided it. They piled on 134 for the seventh wicket at a brisk pace, 129 of them coming in the first two hours of play.
Ellis was the dominant partner, moving from his overnight score of 32 through to a second first-class century, in his 62nd match. He was powerful around the ground and brought up triple figures with another neat flick off his pads to the square leg boundary.
His 109 included 17 fours and came from just 154 balls, following 40 in the first dig.
He said he had been struggling for batting form having not played a lot of cricket on New Zealand's ODI tour of Sri Lanka, which was again scheduled during the rainy season, but some advice from Canterbury's quickest bowler had done the trick.
''It was actually Hamish Bennett who mentioned something in the nets about the way I was playing and the way he'd like to see me playing, and it was a really good bit of advice,'' Ellis said.
''It's helped me a lot. I've felt a bit of rhythm so I've probably got a bit to thank him for. But I can't divulge the trade secret.''
Ellis might also consider cheekily asking Peter Fulton if he can captain Canterbury in first-class cricket more often.
Not a stranger to the captaincy duties in the shorter forms and for New Zealand A, the experienced 31-year-old allrounder assumed the skipper's role in Plunket Shield for the first time this week in Rangiora and he's certainly led from the front.
Astle, a former opener, showed his batting pedigree with an equally well compiled 64 not out, happy to play second fiddle later in his innings to allrounder Logan van Beek who iced the cake with 47 from 55 balls - his highest first-class score - in an eighth-wicket stand worth 55 runs.
The fall of his wicket brought the declaration, leaving Wellington 470 to get in 149 overs.
Van Beek struck twice in two balls to remove Stephen Murdoch (24) and Grant Elliott (0) on 46, and Hamish Bennett and Astle chipped out James Franklin and Michael Pollard, but Luke Woodcock joined the ominous looking Michael Papps for an unbroken 72-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Papps (68 not out) has scored 112 runs without being dismissed in the match, continuing his purple patch. His wicket will be key for Canterbury, Ellis acknowledging his ''class''.
''There's a lot of work to do yet. There's some turn out there and balls are going up and down, but there's also runs in it, so it's a pretty good four-day wicket,'' said Ellis, suggesting legspinner Ellis and offspinner Johnston would shoulder much of the workload today.
''Todd's bowling well and it only takes one delivery. Hamish and Logan are bowling well, too, we'll just keep chopping and changing and presnting different challenges to the batsmen.''
A weird game has broken out in Whangarei as both teams try to force a result. After the first two days were washed out, Otago declared their first innings at 93-6, Northern Districts declared their first innings at 223-8, and Otago are 44-1 in their second innings heading into the final day.
In Auckland, Central Districts were simply chasing batting points, having scored 381-6 on the third day, with the first two days also washed out. Nelson product Greg Hay was 77 not out.
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