Plunket Shield round five: SKYCITY Northern Knights 556/9 declared in 137 overs (Dean Brownlie 334, Mitchell Santner 101) drew with the Devon Hotel Central Stags 401/9 in 145.2 overs (Hay 157, Bruce 56, Bracewell 78; Kuggeleijn 3-77; Robinson unavailable to bat) and 268/5 (Hay 80, Bruce 94) in 92 overs at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
There was triumph and tragedy on the last day for the Devon Hotel Central Stags in their follow-on, the triumph being that they had managed to force a draw despite the SKYCITY Northern Knights having made all the play on the opening two days. The tragedy, for hometown fans at least, was that local Taranaki star Tom Bruce just missed out on a fairytale maiden century on his home ground, falling for 94 as the Stags crept to a 77-run lead, five down late in the day.
Bruce and first innings centurion Greg Hay dominated the scoring to force the stalemate, Bruce having been on 82 at tea as both teams contemplated an early finish to the evening. Hay's remarkable match had ended shortly before the break when seamer Graeme Aldridge finally broke through his defences on 80, having scored 237 runs for the Stags in the match.
The hosts had been 97/3 at lunch, still trailing by 57, but with Hay continuing to make runs as the sun shone they looked in little danger of folding. Bruce was the more aggressive of the pair and in his first season with the Stags continues to impress, following his star turn in his sudden Finals call-up in the Ford Trophy.
The Knights collected six bonus points from the draw, while the Stags pocket three.
The Devon Hotel Central Stags showed themselves to be undaunted chasing a steep total at Pukekura Park, falling just five runs short of the follow-on mark of 406 — and that with a man down.
Dean Robinson was not available to bat after having broken his left leg after his spikes got stuck in the ground while fielding earlier in the match, so the Stags had to turn in at nine down, having gone ever so close to making the Knights bat again — and doing it for their missing comrade.
If that weren't frustrating enough, they then lost two quick wickets, openers George Worker and Ajaz Patel, to the SKYCITY Northern Knights in the eventful last 30 minutes of the day, in the aching follow on.
Greg Hay was not amongst them since he'd already spent 502 minutes at the crease fighting in the first innings for a pivotal 157 — a sixth career first-class century for the 30-year-old right-hander. His marathon innings included a terrific eighth wicket stand of 60 with usual number eleven Andy Mathieson, who continued a good season as he patiently got himself up for a career-best unvanquished 25, including a six.
So Hay's dismissal bit hard, after eight hours and 19 boundaries inching their way ever so close to that magic number of 401; and after the quick wickets late in the day he was back out there anyway, taking the Stags through to a nervous 17/2 at stumps with Will Young.
A little while after midday, on a sunny Pukekura Park, batting records began flying out of the park.
Having been unbeaten on 222 overnight, Dean Brownlie was still at the crease. Mitchell Santner, who’d been with him on 39 at the start of the day, had just reached his second career century in Plunket Shield cricket. It was a handsome knock in its own right, from 166 balls at a fair strike rate, 60-plus — not that the young allrounder was destined to get any headlines for it.
For a few minutes, Brownlie sat on 284 — equal with Kane Williamson as owner of the highest first-class score in Northern Districts history. That unbeaten Williamson innings was just a few seasons ago and he never got a shot at 300 because his captain, Brad Wilson, infamously declared.
At Pukekura, the moment Brownlie moved into outright highest was upstaged a little by Santner’s sudden departure, minutes earlier — and when wickets are this few and far between, any wicket is a jolt. Spinner Ajaz Patel ended their epic 217-run, 311-ball, fifth-wicket stand to give himself laboursome figures of 2-107.
But to be fair, Brownlie himself was in charge of most of the upstaging. He scored by far the lion’s share of the Northern Knights’ colossal total, Daniel Flynn having been in no haste to declare at Pukekura and enjoying the sight of the Stags chasing leather for the best part of two days.
Just before lunch, Brownlie passed the magic 300 milestone, with a single off George Worker. Worker, who has a reputation as a golden arm, had only bowled a handful of overs at this stage, to give the flagging attack a break.
Brownlie had galloped to the milestone with sixes, and after he ticked off the rare triple, the sense of a looming declaration hung stronger in the air. The batsman freed the arms even more for quick boundaries. He reached 334 — then, after 552 minutes, 398 balls, 40 boundaries and eight breezy sixes, Worker finally got him caught by Patel.
The day didn’t improve much for the Stags after the declaration at 556/9. By stumps they were already four down, trailing the Knights by 411, and they had been rocked by the loss of Dean Robinson who had broken his leg fielding. The day ended badly for local star Tom Bruce, too, despite making his second half-century in successive appearances and a new PB of 56, for he was caught behind at the close, with batting mate Greg Hay unbeaten on 49 at stumps and facing a serious job at the crease tomorrow.
Some of the statistics Dean Brownlie rewrote:
Only the fifth first-class triple century in New Zealand domestic cricket history
Highest first-class innings by a New Zealander since 1952, exceeded only by Bert Sutcliffe's 385 (1952/53) and 355 (1949/50) for Otago, and Roger Blunt's 338 not out for Otago (1931/32).
His 208 runs scored in boundaries is second only to John R. Reid's 230 runs from boundaries in 1963 (New Zealand records)
Most runs by a Northern Knight in one match, with just one innings beating Matthew Maynard's 305
Highest score batting at two for the Knights — previously 235 held by James Marshall vs Canterbury in 2001/02
556/9 is the fifth highest total in Northern Districts history and the largest total against the Central Stags, previously 516 in 2006/07
Dean Brownlie’s previous career best was 171.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic is that Brownlie's century was the first by the Northern Knights in any Plunket Shield game at Pukekura Park!
Dean Brownlie looked at home on the Pukekura Park wicket immediately - and ended the day still on it unbeaten on 222. After his skipper Daniel Flynn won the toss and elected to pad up, Brownlie got into his work straight away, ending the first session just twelve short of his first century.
His teammates weren't able to cash in in the same way. Flynn took 21 balls for his eight before Doug Bracewell had him caught by Tom Bruce, while Joe Carter (27) and BJ Watling (25) were gone before lunch.
Brownie brought up his first hundred from 126 balls, having struck 18 fours, then put his head down and set about getting the second. Daryl Mitchell was lbw to Bevan Small for eight, while Anton Devcich was unluckily bowled by Keiran Noema-Barnett playing a defensive shot that popped up and collected his stumps.
Meanwhile, Brownlie was working steadily toward his second hundred, brought up with half an hour still to play from from 269 balls, and ended the day on 222*, having struck 32 fours and a six. His timing was spot on, and was consistently able to find the gaps in the field, largely untroubled by the Stags attack. Mitchell Santner is alongside Brownlie at the end of the day, and the Knights will resume in a strong position on 341-5.
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