OTAGO VOLTS v CENTRAL STAGS
Molyneux Park, Alexandra
First innings bonus points
Bowling: Otago Volts 1 (completed), Central Stags 4 (maximum achieved)
Batting: Central Stags 3 (completed), Otago Volts 0 (completed)
Result: Central Stags remain unbeaten with victory by an innings and 84 runs
The Central Stags, unbeaten in the first-class Plunket Shield since October 2016, did it again with an innings victory cemented on the final afternoon in Alexandra.
The Volts had battled it out on the final day, but simply couldn't hold on long enough as first Dean Foxcroft then leg-spinner Brad Schmulian chipped out the wickets.
Earlier, Volts debutant Cam Hawkins had raised his maiden half century on the last morning, before showers halted play at 138 for three with the Volts still trailing by 213 in the follow on.
Hawkins reached 55* off 201 balls before the disruption, with Mitch Renwick 22* for a 50-stand, but there would be no further play before lunch.
The battles began again in the middle session with the Volts batsmen becoming increasingly dogged, and continuing to frustrate the Stags' hunt for second innings wickets.
Suddenly, first Renwick then Hawkins (61) fell to debutant spinning allrounder Dean Foxcroft.
Now the door was open, and a further wicket right on tea lifted the Stags' spirits: Michael Rippon departing to Brad Schmulian, the Volts still 144 behind.
But Josh Finnie remained, and was going well, unbeaten on 44* with a further 37 overs remaining in the match.
When Schmulian got one through him on 79, the Stags had their quarry nine down and could almost begin to breathe again. The Volts meanwhile only had to resist another 13 or so overs, but Schmulian did it again as debutant Ben Lockrose was bowled for no score, the defending champions ecstatic to go three from three in the eight-round competition.
Molyneux Misery continued unabated into the third afternoon for the Volts as Central Stags captain Greg Hay enforced the follow on.
After breaking through the middle order, the Stags rolled their hosts for 162, a hefty deficit of 349. Shawn Hicks top-scored for the southerners with 42, but he had added just a handful of runs to his overnight scored before shouldering arms to Blair Tickner, who zeroed in on his castle.
It was one of a cluster of early wickets, the Volts in deep trouble at 99 for seven before Mitch Renwick found support in Nathan Smith to launch some sort of resistance.
Batting at five, erstwhile opener Renwick batted for almost three hours against his former team for his 28, while Smith stuck around for almost two hours as they ground out 55 for the eighth wicket.
But when the pace attack had had enough, debutant Dean Foxcroft came on and soon claimed Renwick as his maiden first-class wicket, caught by his Hawke's Bay teammate Brad Schmulian.
Foxcroft then picked up the gritty Smith with only one more run added to the scoreboard, finishing with a quick 3-8 off just 9.3 overs.
Opening pacemen Tickner (4-26 in his first innings back with his Domestic team) and Ryan McCone (3-40) had led the way and it wasn't long until McCone had another, dismissing Brad Wilson for the second time in the match before the Volts had got a run on the board in their second dig.
Backs to the wall, the Volts lost another early wicket with little-sighted Josh Clarkson entering the attack and claiming first drop Josh Tasman-Jones as his fourth first-class wicket, Cleaver accepting another catch behind the wicket.
Cam Hawkins held on as he was joined by Hicks, the pair working up 66 runs for the third wicket before Hicks, too, was back in the pavilion again, another wicket for debutant Dean Foxcroft.
Hawkins was patient under fire through the rest of the evening, the Volts' debutant opener seeing his team through to stumps with Renwick and set to resume at 99 for three, still trailing by 250 runs with seven in hand.
The Greg Hay show rolled on in Alexandra on a 28-degree scorcher, the opening batsman showing no sign of sunscreen in his eyes as he batted for hour upon hour.
The Stags headed to lunch at 385 for four, their anchorman captain still unbeaten on 171*.
Hay had posted his 150 in the morning session, a veteran's day to remember as he steadily constructed another weighty partnership with fellow thirty-something, and former captain and now player-manager, Kieran Noema-Barnett.
Having only just got off the mark the night before, Noema-Barnett had raised his own bat for a half century as the pair reached an 111-run stand together for the fifth wicket by lunch.
They marched on to put the Stags 400 on the board for no further loss, and the 150-stand milestone before Hay reached his double century to the loud applause of his young teammates, after more than nine hours at the crease.
The Volts' long, hot afternoon would continue in the field for a while yet in the middle session. Noema-Barnett reached his third first-class century from 83 matches, 11 boundaries in his three-and-a-half hour hundred that was destined to go down as merely the support act.
But, finally, there would be something for the sweat-soaked Volts to celebrate. It was 18-year-old debutant Ben Lockrose who broke the senior pros' epic 205-run stand at 479 for five: a maiden wicket as Noema-Barnett (108) walked back in at 479 for five.
After almost 10 and a half hours at the crease, spread over almost two days, Greg Hay finally capitulated on a career best 226, trapped by Josh Tasman-Jones who found some in-swing at 491 for six.
Youngsters Willem Ludick and Josh Clarkson added 20 more runs to push the Stags' total up over the 500 psychological barrier before Hay declared the first innings at 511 for six: the highest total by any team in the history of Molyneux Park, with the next best having been 456 scored by ND in 2017/18.
Hay's 226 was also the highest individual score at Molyneux Park, beating Ken Rutherford's 179 against the Stags in the 1988/89 season.
The new ball killed the mood in the Volts' camp all over again, Brad Wilson looking to pad away Ryan McCone only for the angling left-armer to go up for a successful shout in the third over.
Debutant Cam Hawkins then decided to shoulder arms against tall Blair Tickner, who happily knocked off his off-bail just three balls later to have the Volts 10 for two, both openers gone and Tickner with a wicket in his first spell for the Stags this season after returning from New Zealand A.
The Volts recovered to 82 for two, Tasman-Jones reaching 29* and Shawn Hicks 39* after an hour and 40 minutes together before stumps, but face a monumental challenge getting back in the game.
Plunket Shield leaders the Central Stags have picked up where they left off a month and a half ago, making a solid start to their round three match with Ford Trophy finalists the Otago Volts in sunny Central Otago.
First-class captain Greg Hay carried his bat through the opening day's play to be sitting on 130* at stumps, the 34-year-old anchorman having posted his 12th first-class century.
He had had early support from Brad Schmulian who reached 41 before playing on against Volts skipper Jacob Duffy who claimed his first wicket at 83 for one in the morning session.
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A proud moment for Foxy as Dane Cleaver presents #DEANFOXCROFT with his first-class cap 🦌 Exciting day in store, batting 1st after captain Greg Hay won the toss & looking to maintain our unbeaten #plunketshield campaign 👍 . . #plunketshield #cricket #propercricket #firstclasscricket #debut #molyneuxpark #cricketnation #lovethestags 🦌
That brought 20-year-old Dean Foxcroft to the middle on first-class debut but the young first drop departed soon after the break for 10 as Nathan Smith got one through his defences.
However, Tom Bruce stuck around for Hay as the pair built a 142-run stand for the fourth wicket, with Bruce reaching his half century shortly before tea. Partner Hay went to the break on 96* but chalked up his century running three early in the last session.
Bruce had looked on for a ton himself, but Duffy struck again to trap him on 71 and Hay lost a further partner in Dane Cleaver before stumps. There was a big setback late in the day however for the Volts with Michael Rippon injuring his ankle.
Hay will resume at 278 for four with new man Kieran Noema-Barnett on 1*.