Wellington captain Stephen Murdoch says he tried everything, but a lack of variety in their bowling attack wasn't to blame for Auckland's record batting onslaught yesterday.
Thanks to Colin Munro's unbeaten 269 and former Firebird Craig Cachopa's maiden first-class century, 166, Auckland racked up 658-9 in their first innings.
It was the fifth-highest Plunket Shield total, the highest scored against Wellington and the ninth-highest in any New Zealand first-class match.
It left Wellington fighting to avoid defeat on the fourth day today, 145-2 in their second innings and still trailing by 133.
The Firebirds went into day three trailing by one run, with the hosts 381-5 and no hint of the carnage to follow.
"They batted exceptionally well and it was a partnership we couldn't break no matter how hard we tried. We kept coming hard at them but they had answers to most things we threw at them," Murdoch said.
Wellington raised eyebrows by omitting spinner Mark Houghton, who replaced the unavailable Luke Woodcock in the 12. It meant six right-arm pace bowlers, of which Mark Gillespie was the most successful after a marathon 40 overs which reaped him 4-166.
"We knew what the balance was going to be and each of those bowlers offers something different. We had a lot of tools within those bowlers and we tried to use all of them," Murdoch explained.
Munro and Cachopa, who wasn't offered a full contract by Wellington and then picked up one with Auckland due to Daryl Tuffey's retirement, added 377 for the sixth wicket. Cachopa's previous highest score from four first-class matches was 82.
Murdoch said Wellington tried several plans to each batsman. "The pitch is pretty batter-friendly . . . short boundaries and a quick outfield. [They] were hard to contain when they were coming hard at us."
Which should augur well for the Firebirds' bid to save the match today. Michael Papps and Murdoch departed last night, leaving Josh Brodie (60) and Grant Elliott (6) to resume and Jesse Ryder to follow.
"There's a clear goal to fight hard and show some character and come away with a well earned draw. We want to be positive too, and we won't try and get bogged down," Murdoch said.
In Napier, Central Districts are poised to establish a big break on the chasing pack. The Stags forced Otago to follow-on 219 behind at Nelson Park, and at stumps last night the visitors were paddling at 237-8 in their second innings, a lead of just 18.
Central already led Otago by 14 points heading into this match so will be awfully hard to run down, even with six rounds still left.