ND pipped in final day Plunket Shield-thriller

02 November 2019
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Northern Districts have been pipped in a Plunket Shield final day-thriller against the Central Stags at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

After winning the toss and sending the Stags in to bat, the visitors had the better of the opening exchanges, putting on 87 for the first wicket before Neil Wagner broke the opening stand by bowling Stags captain Greg Hay for 36.

Another wicket followed shortly after with Brett Randell running out Ben Smith for two, however this brought Brad Schmulian to the crease, and he enjoyed a 151-run stand with George Worker, the latter moving past the century mark before Randell removed him for 130, the first wicket of three in a spell that would pull the game back for the hosts, seeing the Stags end day one on 304/5.

The end of the Stags innings came 22 overs into day two as James Baker (2), Neil Wagner (2) and Trent Boult (1) mopped-up the remainder of the Stags line-up to dismiss them for 371.

ND's innings got off to a bad start as they lost the top three with only 26 on the board.

Joe Carter and BJ Watling briefly combined and seemed to be steadying the innings, before both departed within a short space of one another with the score at 73/5.

When Peter Bocock departed for 17 with the score at 86, the Stags had the ND bowlers walking to the crease and would have been hoping to finish the inning quickly.

However, the tail wagged for ND, particularly Randell and Boult, who shared a partnership of 75, with Boult scoring 44 and Randell 56; his maiden first-class half-century.

When Randell eventually did fall, his was the final wicket, and ND were dismissed for 202 - a first innings deficit of 169.

Knowing they had a big job ahead of them, the ND bowlers got into their work quickly, Boult and Randell early wickets to leave the Stags 41/3.

The Stags consolidated, adding 63 runs before Boult removed Ben Smith for 60.

A 49-run partnership was built, taking the Stags to 153/4, until Wagner took the first wicket of a spell that would rip through the Stags batting line-up, bringing about a swift end to their innings.

Wagner took five of the last six Stags wickets to fall (Boult accounting for the other), to claim his first ND five-wicket haul and dismiss the Stags for 204 - ND would have just over a day's play to chase 374 runs for victory.

The openers made a solid start, seeing off the new ball and making their way to 44 before Daniel Flynn was undone by an inswinging-yorker from Jarrod Mckay for 19.

Henry Cooper helped take the runs required below 300 before he departed for 37.

James Baker walked to the middle, tasked with seeing his side through to the end of day's play as the night-watchman, which he did successfully as ND went into the final day on 88/2 - they had eight wickets and one day to score 286 runs for victory.

James Baker helped Bharat Popli add a further 17 runs before departing, which brought Joe Carter to the crease.

This would be the first of two key partnerships that seemed like they would take ND close to victory.

Carter joined the set Popli in picking off the runs, the two passing half-centuries as they made it to lunch at 192/3 - two sessions left, ND requiring 182 runs, Central Stags seven wickets - any result was on the table.

Unfortunately for ND tragedy struck shortly after lunch, as Carter was dismissed for 55 11 balls into the new session.

Watling took-up the task and he built another partnership with the resolute Popli, the two adding 65, leaving 115 required with six wickets in-hand, before Popli's 202-ball innings finally came to an end for a gritty 87.

This wickets signaled the beginning of the end for ND, as they continued to lose wickets at regular intervals from this point on, including Watling for 44, before they were dismissed for 299; 74 runs short of their target.

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