Central Districts had their hand firmly on the tiller as they continued to bear down on the Plunket Shield title in Nelson yesterday.
They ended the second day of their final round match against Northern Districts at Saxton Oval at a commanding 397-9 in their first innings, 130 runs ahead of Northern with one wicket in hand and two full days' play remaining.
Central's opening batsmen Jeet Raval and Jamie How earned the day's major accolades, though a defiant late stand put Central back behind the steering wheel.
Northern had staged a minor recovery, reducing Central to 285-6. But a 96-run seventh wicket stand between Doug Bracewell (67) and Tarun Nethula (28) reignited the Central innings.
Left-hander Raval had earlier celebrated his maiden century for Central and his fifth at first-class level as he and How plundered a mammoth 215 runs to equal Central's record opening stand against Northern.
Raval went to the lunch break on 99 and with the total at 195. He endured a testing maiden over from Brent Arnel the second over back before a single off a misfield two overs later finally secured his hundred off 155 deliveries.
How looked poised to join him shortly afterwards but with his score on 93, he miscued an attempted pull shot off left-armer Corey Anderson and lobbed a comfortable top edge to keeper Cameron Fletcher. How faced 146 balls and hit 11 fours and two sixes.
Raval added a further 29 runs with Carl Cachopa before Raval's marathon innings finally ended, caught down the leg side off his gloves off Anurag Verma for 121.
New Zealand spin bowler Jeetan Patel took 5-80 for Wellington against Otago yesterday and was rewarded with a belated callup to the New Zealand XI to play England in Queenstown. Northern Districts leg spinner Ish Sodhi has been ruled out by injury.
At stumps, Wellington trail Otago by 90 runs, with nine second innings wickets in hand. Otago were bowled out for 378, in reply to Wellington's 255, and had reduced the hosts to 33-1 by stumps.
Canterbury are on track for a massive win over Auckland.
After rolling Auckland for just 173 in their first innings, Canterbury were far from their best with the bat but posted a competitive 302.
Auckland then confirmed themselves as wooden spoon "winners", capitulating to be 110-7 at stumps last night, still 19 runs behind.
- Taranaki Daily News