Aces fall against Firebirds in Wellington

The Aces played Wellington at the Basin Reserve, in a top-of-the-table clash that promised a lot, but which didn’t deliver much from Auckland.

Wellington won the toss and elected to bat. Auckland struggled with bowling on a pitch that displayed some very inconsistent bounce throughout the match.

The Firebirds started quickly, opening their innings with a four from Andrew Fletcher. Better then when Danru Ferns took out Fletcher’s off-stump with a ball that kept low.

Malcolm Nofal then stepped into the lead scoring role, hitting 38 off 37 balls before he was dismissed, caught behind after misplaying a ball from Jamie Brown down the leg side.

These wickets didn’t slow the Wellington run-rate much, Michael Bracewell and the dangerous Devon Conway continuing to play shots.

Bracewell was dismissed with the Firebirds at 109 after 22 overs. This brought Jimmy Neesham in, who wasted no time in slotting two sixes.

Auckland Aces reacted to this in some unconventional ways. Finn Allen was thrown the ball for two overs, which went for 19 runs.

Neesham continued in the way he had begun, hitting eight 4s and three 6s in on his way to 67 off 46 balls. He was eventually removed by another stumping, this time off the bowling of Will O’Donnell.

With Conway still in the middle into the last 10 overs, the Firebirds were always on for a big score, and the Aces had to focus on putting the squeeze on in the final overs.

The death bowling was impressive from Mitchell McClenaghan, Danru Ferns, and Sean Solia. The last 10 overs went for just 59 runs, and the number of dots put pressure on the Wellington batsmen.

That pressure came to a head in the 49th over – Solia collected three wickets caught on the boundary, including Conway for 94. Mitchell McClenaghan picked up the tenth wicket, and Wellington finished at 278.

The chase got off to an inauspicious start, Allen dismissed for just four. Rather than going after the total hammer and tongs, Solia and Michael Barry then scored slowly and conservatively, getting to 12 overs for 38 runs, when Solia was dismissed for 22.

Craig Cachopa couldn’t follow up his heroics from Sunday, falling for 21 after another slow innings.

The chase was already looking decidedly shaky, not improving as Will O’Donnell was dismissed first ball.

Barry also got out for 21, stumped one over later as he tried to increase the run rate.

There was a sense of inevitability once the Aces got to six down, and only a surprise cameo by Somerville brought some life to the Auckland chase. He reached 50 runs, his highest List-A score, off 60 balls.

Wellington eventually bowled out Auckland for 158, securing a win by 120 runs.

The Aces now sit third on the Ford Trophy table with 12 points.

They will host the Central Stags at Eden Park Outer Oval on Saturday.

Full scorecard here.

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