Canterbury well ahead with two rounds to go
Canterbury have opened up a handy 18-point buffer at the top of cricket's Plunket Shield, but they won't even consider nursing that lead with just two rounds to go.
Canterbury beat Auckland at Hagley Oval yesterday by 64 runs to secure their fourth outright win of the competition and end a three-match winless streak.
With just two games to go in the four-day competition - both against Central Districts - Canterbury captain Andrew Ellis said his side are more interested in wrapping up the title with a round to go than defending their lead.
"We'll still be playing to win. You don't do anything different in a situation like this," he said.
"You don't want to get ahead of yourself or you fall over."
Yesterday's win came down to an impressive bowling effort from left-arm quick Ryan McCone who knocked the top off the strong Auckland batting lineup; leg-spinner Todd Astle breaking a potentially match-saving eighth wicket Auckland partnership on his way to taking four wickets, and a solid first innings with the bat from the home side.
Had Rob Nicol not hung around and scored an uncharacteristically slow 66no from 222 balls on days one and two, Canterbury would never have scored the above par first innings 328 they managed.
That allowed them to dictate terms and forced Auckland to feed them runs in the match's third innings.
Nicol cashed in again scoring 81no while Dean Brownlie (98) and Shanan Stewart (96no) also benefited.
After declaring early yesterday at 332 for four, Ellis left Auckland 90 overs to score 361 and with the likes of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Colin de Grandhomme in their side it was possible. But McCone took four for 75 including the first four wickets.
After Auckland dropped to 49 for three, they relied heavily on de Grandhomme and Munro but both were too aggressive, assessed the situation poorly and were dismissed playing dumb cricket.
Craig Cachopa on the other hand played sensibly and scored 118 before he became one of Astle's four wickets.
That wicket, Auckland's eighth, reopened the door for the hosts, who wrapped the match up with 14.2 overs to spare.
Ellis gave special mention to McCone's "fantastic" new-ball effort on a good batting wicket while heaping praise on Astle, Nicol and the team in general.
Central Districts hadn't won a match in any format before last week, but now they have two four-day wins in a row after beating Otago by 134 runs in an eventful final day of their match in Nelson.
CD's Jamie How scored 207no before his team declared, leaving Otago 412 to win. Jimmy Neesham scored 147 off just 135 balls during the chase, but only one other batsmen - Michael Bracewell (46) scored more than 19.
CD skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett took a hat-trick which included the under-fire Jesse Ryder first ball as his second victim.
Northern Districts' match with Wellington was abandoned early yesterday and only 50 overs were completed in the entire game - on day one.