SPLIT ROUND: SEVENTH GAME FOR NORTHERN DISTRICTS, SEVENTH GAME FOR CENTRAL STAGS
Cobham Oval, Whangarei
29 March-1 April, 2022
Toss: Northern Districts who batted
First innings bonus points: ND 6, Stags 3 - annulled
Result: Match called off due to COVID-19
Freddy Walker - first-class debut
Jeet Raval - 19th first-class century (second for ND)
Bharat Popli - fourth first-class century
Jeet Raval, Bharat Popli - Northern Districts record opening partnership
Jeet Raval, Bharat Popli - Northern Districts record partnership (334), all wickets (exceeding Joey Yovich and Mark Orchard's sixth-wicket record of 322)
Jeet Raval - highest first-class score for Northern Districts
Jeet Raval - third first-class double century
Tom Bruce - fifth first-class century
Tom Bruce - maiden first-class double century
In order to prioritise player and official safety, following a number of COVID-19 player stand-downs before the scheduled start of play, both teams and officials agreed to call the match off, with no play taking place on the fourth day.
First innings points from this match are therfore annulled under the guidelines for this irregular season, and the fixture will not be included when calculating the points per match ratio that determines the order of the table this season.
The Stags resumed on another warm day in Whangarei, first drop Brad Schmulian soon emulating Tom Bruce with a half century as he brought up the Stags' 150 with the same stroke.
The pair looked increasingly comfortable as they carried on to lodge their team's 200, en route to a 218-run partnership for the third wicket on a still-placid pitch.
Bruce thumped a Joe Walker delivery into the window of the pavilion's top tower on his way to his fifth first-class century, fresh off an unbeaten 90* in the previous match.
By lunch, the Stags were 255/3, but Northern Districts had meanwhile struck with the new ball - Schmulian bowled by Brett Randell after his well crafted, 320-minute 98 that had helped secure the Stags' reply.
Together, Bruce and Schmulian had put on 218 for the third wicket.
Top order batsmen Ben Smith and Dane Cleaver still sitting out the proceedings with niggles, Josh Clarkson's elevation at five was a short one after he became Randell's next victim, caught behind for no score, bringing Joey Field to the middle shortly after lunch.
It was hard graft for the ND attack, but spinner Joe Walker would end up with three after he eventually had Field stumped and Ajaz Patel caught.
Bruce was still there. He had eased past his previous career best of 166*, and now a second double century in this match was in sight.
Dane Cleaver came out to bat at eight, the score at 394/7. He, too, stuck around for an hour in support of Bruce, until falling to Brett Hampton when Bruce was on 199* in his eight-hour stint.
But Bruce was unfazed, and clocked up his first first-class double century off 305 balls, in 491 minutes with 18 boundaries and two sixes.
He carried on to 208* before Greg Hay called the batsmen in at 408/7 declared in response to ND's own mammoth first innings of 496/6 declared.
Twelve overs remaining in the last session on the penultimate day and a big wicket fell early, with ND's first innings double centurion Jeet Raval caught for 3 off Will Clark's fourth delivery.
ND will resume at 25/1, an overall lead of 113 with the ball in their court to set a final day chase.
After 102.3 overs, finally a first wicket for the long-suffering Central Stags after having been asked to bowl on the previous day.
Seamer Ray Toole ended the mammoth Northern Districts opening stand at 334 - but not before Jeet Raval and Bharat Popli had carved their named into the recordbooks yet again, now with a new ND all wickets record.
Popli was the man to depart, on an even 150, caught by Greg Hay after almost five hours of concentration in the humidity and heat.
The ND stand had ended as the fifth highest in New Zealand's first-class history - and fourth highest in more than a century of the Plunket Shield championship, the pair having moved five places up that list since resuming on their overnight total of 303/0.
Highest New Zealand first-class partnerships - first wicket
432 • Michael Papps/Luke Woodcock, Wellington Firebirds, 2017/18
428 • Peter Ingram/Jamie How, Central Stags, 2009/10
387 • Glenn Turner/Terry Jarvis, New Zealand, 1971/72 (in West Indies)
373 • Bert Sutcliffe/Les Watt, Otago, 1950/51
334 • Bharat Popli/Jeet Raval, Northern Districts, 2021/22
333 • Bruce Edgar/Andrew Jones, Wellington, 1988/89
316 • Michael Austen/Ron Hart, Wellington, 1993/94
After having sat through the entire opening day padded up, Katene Clarke finally walked out into the bright sunshine, and had the misfortune to lose his middle stump to Stags workhorse Ajaz Patel after facing just nine deliveries.
Raval was then joined by captain Joe Carter and the experienced opener soon raised his bat again - after dancing down for an elegant six to post his third first-class double century in fine style.
Double century for two New Zealand major associations:— Andrew (@shortflyslip) March 29, 2022
JR Reid Wellington (2) Otago
MJ Horne Auckland Otago
JA Raval Auckland (2) Northern Districts
Finally the majestic Raval knock came to an end at the hands of the Stags' two spinners.
Patel snared his second of a hard earned four-fa as Jayden Lennox clasped the catch to end Raval's 497-minute epic on 209 - by which time ND was a cheeky 399/3.
Lennox had bowled just nine overs to this point, while Patel now had 2-101 off his 40 on a deck with little life after the previous week's torrential rains.
ND would go past 400 and to lunch at 456/3, Carter quickly gliding to 40* and Brett Hampton 39*, with Carter declaring at 496/6 in the middle session after Patel has started to find some glimmers in the footmarks.
By now the Stags' misfortunes were compounded by being down by two key players.
Dane Cleaver had been replaced as wicketkeeper on the previous day after tweaking his back, and Ben Smith was injured on the second day while fielding in close, with both Bayley Wiggins and Ben Stoyanoff now required on the field.
Those circumstances led to the rare spectre of both a coach in whites running the drinks, and an opening bowler opening the batting as youngster Will Clark was elevated to partner the veteran Greg Hay.
It was Clark's first bat in first-class cricket, in just his second match.
🅿🅻🆄🅽🅺🅴🆃 🆂🅷🅸🅴🅻🅳— Central Stags 🏏 (@CentralStags) March 30, 2022
ND declares at 496/6. WILL CLARK heading out for his 1st bat in first-class cricket with GREG HAY, BEN SMITH & DANE CLEAVER both injured
Live 👉 https://t.co/cbQyGGYUXj
🟩 🟩 🟩 #LOVETHESTAGS
🟩 🟩 🟩 #PLUNKETSHIELD
🟩 🟩 🟩 #CRICKETNATION pic.twitter.com/w4GAK9QQs7
After seeing off Brett Randell and Neil Wagner, Hay and Clark almost survived the first hour - before Brett Hampton came on at first change in the 13th over and struck with his first delivery, removing Hay at 28/1.
Clark recombined with Brad Schmulian before spinner Joe Walker (below) got the second wicket just before tea, Clark walking back after an 87-minute stint for 14 at 41/2.
Schmulian was meanwhile settling in well to an anchoring role, and by stumps he and Tom Bruce had fashioned a 95-run stand for the third wicket, Bruce reaching his half century just before stumps and Schmulian set to rekindle his innings on 39*.
Freddy Walker (below) had meanwhile bowled his first couple of overs in first-class cricket, the Walker brothers becoming the first genuine pair of spin-bowling siblings to play together in the Plunket Shield since Otago's Alabasters.
The Stags will resume on Day Three trailing on the first innings by 365.
Northern Districts opening batsmen Bharat Popli (133 not out, below) and Jeet Raval (163 not out) batted throughout the opening day in Whangarei to construct one of the 10 highest opening partnerships in New Zealand first-class history - finishing the day with just a handful of runs required on the next morning to move even further up that list, with a placid pitch at their disposal.
After ND captain Joe Carter had won the toss at a sun-soaked Cobham Oval, the pair went to work against the Central Stags who created few chances in the docile, humid conditions - Stags captain Greg Hay cycling through eight bowlers and three wicketkeepers (after an injury to Dane Cleaver) during the course of the long afternoon.
That should not diminish the feat of concentration from the ND pair on a sweltering day that saw them take the hosts to 107/0 at lunch; 195/0 at tea; and 303/0 at stumps.
Raval produced his 19th first-class hundred (his second for Northern Districts) and Popli his fourth (all for Northern Districts) en route.
A picture of patience, Raval reached his first half century after lunch and went on to three figures shortly after tea, off 218 balls, in 274 minutes with 11 boundaries and a six.
The pair then notched the ND 200 without loss before Popli joined him off 209 balls, in 288 minutes, with eight boundaries and a six, shortly before the new ball was taken.
The pair broke the Northern Districts first-class opening record of 278 which had previously belonged to Henry Cooper and Daniel Flynn, set at the same ground in March 2018 v Canterbury.