Plunket Shield: Troy Johnson's maiden first-class century guides Wellington to strong position

Troy Johnson stood tall against a hostile Neil Wagner to notch his maiden first-class century and set Wellington up for an overdue first victory of the Plunket Shield cricket season on Saturday.
Johnson, in his fifth first-class match, hit 114 against a Northern Districts attack containing internationals Wagner, Ish Sodhi and Scott Kuggeleijn at Taurangas Bay Oval.

The innings boosted the bottom-placed Firebirds, the defending shield champions, to a first innings total of 395, a lead of 149.

Plunket Shield leaders Canterbury impress again on opening day against Central Stags.

Captain Michael Bracewell then chimed in with his effective offspin to snare three wickets including Black Caps Tim Seifert and BJ Watling, reducing ND to 179-4 and a lead of just 30 at stumps on day three.

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Second to runaway leaders Canterbury heading into round six, NDs chances of mounting a title challenge nosedived and they will do well to avoid defeat to the Firebirds.

Johnsons previous highest score was 33, and he defied the ND bowlers for over six hours and faced 271 balls. The majority of his 11 boundaries were through the off side as he pounced on anything fractionally short or wide.

The key Wellington partnership was with Peter Younghusband (72) who helped the sides Ford Trophy captain Johnson add 127 for the sixth wicket and build a significant lead.

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Neil Wagner snared four wickets in his second match back from a foot injury (file photo).

Wagner, in his second match back after suffering two fractured toes against Pakistan in December, charged in for 23 overs and took 4-58, including Johnsons wicket held by a juggling Jeet Raval at slip.

In Rangiora it was a familiar story as Canterbury applied the blowtorch on Central Stags to put themselves in a winning position and tighten their grip on the silverware.

Seamer Fraser Sheat struck three times late in the day to reduce the Stags to 69-4 in their second innings at stumps, still trailing Canterbury by 63 runs.

Sheats haul of 3-19 included George Worker, Ben Smith and Tom Bruce, to leave captain Greg Hay (31 not out) a significant rescue job after they scored just 149 batting first.

Wicketkeeper Cam Fletcher (78) and captain Cole McConchie (75) helped Canterbury post 281 and a lead of 132, as regular wickets continued. The pair lifted Canterbury from 82-4 with a fifth wicket stand of 111.

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Canterbury gloveman Cam Fletcher led the way with the bat against the Stags (file photo).

Stags seamer Blair Tickner was the pick of the bowlers with 4-89.

In Invercargill, third-placed Auckland tried their best to spin out Otago but the Volts held firm late on day three of the rain-interrupted match.

At stumps the hosts were 259-5 in reply to the Aces first innings of 351-8 declared and both sides will need to push the pace to set up a result on the final day.

Auckland were well in charge when they reduced Otago to 200-5, with all five wickets falling to spin via Will Somerville, Glenn Phillips and Louis Delport.

Phillips removed younger brother Dale, caught at leg slip for 15, then trapped Nick Kelly lbw for 43 to leave the Volts teetering.

But Michael Rippon (40 not out) and Max Chu (29 not out) provided some resistance before the close.


Plunket Shield, round six:

At Bay Oval, Tauranga (day three): Northern Districts 246 and 179-4 (Henry Cooper 73, Jeet Raval 40; Michael Bracewell 3-46) met Wellington Firebirds 395 (Troy Johnson 114, Peter Younghusband 72, Jamie Gibson 46; Neil Wagner 4-58).

At Queens Park, Invercargill (day three): Auckland Aces 351-8 dec met Otago Volts 259-5 (Hamish Rutherford 63, Mitch Renwick 49, Nick Kelly 43).

At Mainpower Oval, Rangiora (day two): Central Stags 149 and 69-4 (Greg Hay 31no; Fraser Sheat 3-19) met Canterbury 281 (Cam Fletcher 78, Cole McConchie 75, Chad Bowes 46; Blair Tickner 4-89).


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