A crunch battle of the Districts | PHOTOSPORT

Sink or swim at Saxton

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ROUND FOUR

CENTRAL STAGS v NORTHERN DISTRICTS

Seddon Park

14-17 November 2020

SCORES

Toss: ND who batted

RESULT: ND won by 40 runs

First innings points : Stags 4, ND 5

Total points this round: Stags 4, ND 17

SELECTED MILESTONES

Seth Rance: seventh first-class five-wicket bag; best career match analysis (7-82)

Will Young: Ninth first-class century, eighth for Central Stags

Umpire Kim Cotton: first-class debut

DAY FOUR

An intriguing final day began with Central Stags allrounder Doug Bracewell, fresh from a call-up into the BLACKCAPS T20 squad, taking two quick wickets in his first spell, followed by a third for the innings for young left-armer Ray Toole.

Seven down with a lead of 299, Joe Carter decided that was adequate and declared after a quick 27 from Tim Southee, leaving two and a half sessions for Southee and company to go Stag hunting with the ball.

He was on target early, ensuring both opening batsmen were back in the pavilion early at 17/2.

With memories still fresh of the damage George Worker and Greg Hay had done to their final day ouright hopes in the first round, it was a big psychological blow by Southee, but brought together another strong pair in BLACKCAP Ross Taylor and BLACKCAP in waiting Will Young - both named in the Test squad earlier the same morning.

The pair took the hosts through to 49/2 at lunch without further loss, 251 runs now required but needing to keep wickets in place this time around.

Taylor brought up their 50-stand with a boundary off Joe Walker first ball after lunch. He then slapped three consecutive fours off Walker's next over, but spinners' revenge was in the pipeline when Ish Sodhi struck just three balls later, Taylor caught at slip.

Now the Stags needed just under a run a ball with seven in hand and were playing positively, but both Taylor (32) and Tom Bruce (17) departed when there was still work to do.

BJ Watling attempts to run our Will Young | PHOTOSPORT

Young remained at his post and was the first Stag of the match to reach a half century, batting now with Dane Cleaver. The required run rate was now four per over, but tempered by the loss of the wickets.

Seeing off Southee's return before the break, the pair saw their side through to tea, by which time just

125 runs remained to be found, Young 69* and Cleaver 48* in an 82-run stand.

Cleaver ladled up a catch after the break without adding to his score, gleefully accepted by Southee off Brett Hampton. Now more weight fell on Young's shoulders even as the chase dropped to double figures, squeaking the Stags' 200th run with Brad Schmulian the new man at the other end.

With the Firebirds-Aces battle of the Basin having meanwhile ended in a draw, now Northern Districts could vault to second on the championship table if they could wrap it up in time. Five wickets, they needed.

Young and Schmulian kept picking off boundaries, riding a little luck until Joe Walker finally outfoxed Schmulian who was snared behind the wicket by Watling. Bracewell strode out with the hosts still needing 82, the last buffer before the tail with just the four wickets remaining now.

Southee would finish with 4-53 | PHOTOSPORT

He did not last long, however, catching a bottom edge to become Southee's third victim while Young sat on 90 not out, still 79 short. Seth Rance then made it four for Southee: three wickets falling in four overs.

Blair Tickner then hung around for half an hour, launching fours off both Southee and Sodhi before trying once too often against the spinner.

Last man Toole joined Young in the middle with the batsman on 99. Moreover, they also required 57 more runs for a win: yet another nailbiter for the Stags this season.

Young put the foot down, a single off Walker raising his ninth first-class century (eighth for the Stags). Toole ran a three, then Young added a six and four for 14 off the over.

But the end was drawing near.

Sodhi (3-39) had Toole's wicket just four balls later at the end of an absorbing afternoon. The Stags had dipped out on a tight chase yet again this summer to find themselves in the uncustomary position of being marooned down the table before Christmas, 35 points off the leaders.

Rance had taken the best match analysis of his career, but it was scant consolation as ND delighted in the tense victory. The visitors had got one back over the side that had beaten them in the first round. What's more, they had just rushed up to second spot on the table.

DAY THREE

The Central Stags continued to lose wickets at Saxton Oval with just three in hand by lunch, going in at 259/7 and still with ND 88 runs ahead on the first innings.

Overnight pair Tom Bruce (41) and Dane Cleaver (31) had both been trapped by BLACKCAP Tim Southee, the latter batsman sharing a 61-run stand with Brad Schmulian (below) for the sixth wicket.

Schmulian looked on to become the first of the home line-up to pass 50 - before Southee had him as well, caught behind on 49 to leave Doug Bracewell in charge of the lower order.

Southee sat on 3-50 at lunch, then the Stags lost Blair Tickner soon after play resumed.

Conscious of time marching on, and with a fourth ND bonus point looming, captain Greg Hay would declare eight down shortly afterwards, when his side was still in arrears by 66 runs.

Despite losing the wicket of Henry Cooper early in the second innings to Seth Rance, ND's top order made a good start to the second dig.

By tea, 13/1 had become 79/1 with Jeet Raval on the cusp of a half century, and the lead sitting at 145. Raval copped a blow to the helmet off Doug Bracewell in the last session, however, and shortly afterwards became Rance's seventh wicket for the match, caught behind on 63.

Two more wickets came for the Stags with impressive youngster Ray Toole complementing Rance's efforts. Crucially he trapped the productive Joe Carter on 44, then added Katene Clark a few overs later to have ND 127/4.

By stumps, the visitors were in the lead to the tune of 224, however, with six still in hand as the match heads into an interesting final day.

DAY TWO

ND resumed at 223 for six, looking to see off the first hour's verve and press on, on a flat deck. Stags swing bowler Seth Rance had other ideas and while he would eventually pocket a hard-won five-wicket bag - his seventh in first-class, Plunket Shield and Stags cricket, the ND lower order put together niggly partnerships and added valuable runs.

The pace of the match, after the previous day's dour platform building push, was such that neither side would achieve their microtargets inside the 110-over bonus points cut off, with the seventh wicket falling just beyond the points threshold at 281/7.

That was Tim Southee, caught off Rance by Ross Taylor for 36 after he and Brett Hampton had added a further 58 runs in their 74-run stand for the seventh wicket.

Despite picking up Hampton (above; trapped on 59) just a few overs later, Rance and the rest of the home attack were made to continue sweating it out as Ish Sodhi (42) and Joe Walker added 59 for the ninth.

Taylor snaffled his third catch of the innings to give Rance his fourth when Sodhi departed at 345/9, and Rance (5-64) had his bag soon after to stop the clock at 347 all out.

The Stags lost opener George Worker before tea, and Will Young and Greg Hay after it - both to Sodhi, relishing the conditions - to leave middle order duo Ross Taylor and Tom Bruce both looking for their first scores of substance for the season at 71/3.

They reached a 50 stand for the fourth wicket in just 75 balls, but just as Taylor was closing in on a half century, he was trapped on 45 by Jimmy Baker.

Dane Cleaver joined Bruce on 32* with 10 overs remaining in another tough day at the office. The pair guided the hosts through to stumps at 161/4, trailing by 186.

DAY ONE

After last week's soggy abandonment, the sun came out at Saxton Oval bright and ready for the Central Stags and Northern Districts to do battle, both Districts keen to get lift off from a midtable log-jam in the last, crunch round before Christmas.

ND captain Joe Carter won the toss and batted on warm and windy morning and, despite some early zing with the ball from the hosts, ND set about a solid day's work.

The highlight was a 116-run fourth wicket stand between the in-form Carter (66) and BLACKCAP BJ Watling (77), patiently gathering their runs through the afternoon after their side had been in a spot early at 31/3.

Seth Rance had made the opening breakthrough while young left-armer Ray Toole and veteran allrounder Doug Bracewell both produced superb opening spells, Toole rewarded with an economical brace in the first session.

But ND was in it for the long haul. Carter and Watling both made starts before lunch, then guided the visitors through the middle session for no further loss before tea.

Carter reached his watchful 50 first, while Watling put aside a painful blow on the gloves before following suit just after tea. Neither batsman would be hurried, and at 142/3 ND was in a solid position as a result heading into the last session.

BJ Watling showed his fortitude | PHOTOSPORT

It was mercurial leg-spinner Brad Schmulian who finally prised them apart at 147/4, trapping Carter as he looked to sweep away a gem. One then became two courtesy of the Stags captain Greg Hay who scored a direct hit to run out Scott Kuggeleijn, again off the leg-spinner.

Watling remained an obstacle, however. A five-hour obstacle, batting as if it were a Test match at stake. He kept chipping away after the new ball was taken, and almost made it to stumps before Blair Tickner - back bolwing for the first time since his first-round hamstring injury - got the big wicket to pocket his first for the season.

ND had the better of the sapping day, 223/6 at stumps with Brett Hampton and Tim Southee having got starts overnight.

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