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Cricket: Central Stags remain unbeaten in hard fought draw

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Central Stags and Wellington Firebirds are making a habit of hard fought matches in New Zealand's $60,000 first-class Plunket Shield, defending champions the Stags pushing back on the final day at Nelson's Saxton Oval to secure a hard-fought draw.

The result extends Central's record for most first-class matches without a loss to 21, keeping alive the possibility of reaching the national record of 24 when the business end of the competition resumes later this summer.

ROUND FOUR RESULT | Central Stags and Wellington Firebirds | Drawn match

At Saxton Oval, Nelson

The greentop of day one was a distant memory for the teams as they entered a delicately poised final day this morning, the Firebirds' eight-prong attack needing to dig deep as they continued their hunt for second innings Stags wickets on what as now a sun-baked surface.

No wickets fell in the opening session, Stags and County cricket veteran Kieran Noema-Barnett, who is based in Napier, reaching his half century before the break. Wicketkeeper-batsman Dane Cleaver emulated him in the middle session, Palmerston North's Cleaver batting for more than six hours for an unbeaten 73-.

Noema-Barnett provided support for almost four and a half of those hours before he became the sole wicket to fall on the final day of the season before Christmas, caught behind off Malcolm Nofal at 300 for four, after a calm and concerted hand of 76.

The crucial occupation frustrated their visitors on a long, hot afternoon and, at tea, the captains shook hands midway through a 2018/19 championship that will resume on February 21 2019, following the conclusion of the upcoming Burger King Super Smash competition window.

For the Firebirds, Hamish Bennett's storming summer in both red-ball and white-ball formats had continued, his five-wicket first innings haul elevating him equal with Auckland Ace Matt McEwan as the first-class championship's top wicket-taker at the midway mark. The pair will take 15 wickets each into the recess (Bennett: 15 wickets at 15.20, McEwan at 19.53), followed by Northern Districts seamer Jimmy Baker with 14 - the first time in several seasons that the top of the New Zealand first-class domestic wickets list has not been dominated by spin bowling.

Firebirds Devon Conway (435 at 108.75 including an unbeaten 203-) and captain Michael Bracewell (335 at 67.00) head the national run aggegates at the midway point of the Plunket Shield, followed by Central Stags captain Greg Hay in vintage touch with 315 at 52.20, including a career best 226. Dane Cleaver (278 at 55.60) today overhauled Otago Volts opener Hamish Rutherford (250 at 41.66) for fourth spot.

The Saxton Oval match was Horowhenua-Kapiti's Ryan McCone's 50th first-class game, while Wellington Firebird Jimmy Neesham went past 3000 first-class career runs en route to his 15th first-class half century.

Central Stags - 57

Northern Districts - 46

Auckland Aces - 46

Wellington Firebirds - 40

Canterbury - 32

Otago Volts - 10

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