It was one of the great comebacks for the Aces when they took on the Wellington Firebirds in their second Ford Trophy match. Six wickets in six overs clinched victory by 13 runs, after the Firebirds looked like they were cruising in the middle overs.
It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Aces, after the Firebirds won the toss and sent them in to bat.
Finn Allen returned to the sheds without scoring, and Michael Barry was at the crease in the first over.
Barry took the lead in upping the run-rate, while Sean Solia, fresh off an unbeaten century on Wednesday, played a supporting role.
Barry was looking good when he was dismissed by Iain McPeake, caught behind by Lauchie Johns.
That was to be the story of the Aces innings, as players got starts, but mostly failed to kick on.
Captain Craig Cachopa was next in and joined with Solia for a 97-run partnership that took the Aces past the 100-run mark.
Solia accelerated after a slow start, bringing up his 50 in 64 balls, including a couple of sweetly timed sixes back over the bowler’s head.
Cachopa finished his run one short of 50, caught behind off the bowling of Jimmy Neesham.
Sean Solia reached 63 before also being caught behind, off the bowling of Peter Younghusband.
From there it was a frustrating middle-overs spell – Graeme Beghin (39) and Ben Horne (26) looked dangerous, but that was cut short when Horne was run out.
By the end of the 50 overs, the Aces had scored 276/9 and would have felt like they had left 20 runs on the park.
The Aces started their bowling innings with a hiss and a roar – Danru Ferns opened up with a maiden, and Mitchell McClenaghan took a wicket from his first ball. After three overs the Firebirds were 0/1.
Devon Conway scored three fours in his 13 before a one-handed catch on the boundary by Will Somerville sent him back to the sheds.
That brought Michael Bracewell to the crease, who put together partnerships with Andrew Fletcher (39) and then Neesham (63) as he brought up his second list-A century.
With Neesham and Bracewell putting on 111 runs for the fourth wicket, things didn’t look great for the Aces.
The first breakthrough came when Neesham was caught by Cachopa off the bowling of Somerville. The Firebirds were 220/4 and the Aces smelled that they were back in the match.
Still, with six wickets in hand and just 37 runs needed it was still definitely going Wellington’s way.
Then the collapse started.
Jakob Bhula was bowled by Michael Barry in the 42nd over. This was quickly followed by Peter Younghusband, bowled by O’Donnell three balls later.
In the 44th over Lauchie Johns was dismissed in a fantastic catch on the boundary by McClenaghan, and the Firebirds began to panic.
This panic worsened an over later when they were at 256/8, Iain McPeake stumped off the bowling of O’Donnell.
When little more than an over later Ollie Newton was out LBW to Barry, the Firebirds were 13 runs behind with their last batsman coming to the crease.
Ferns came on for his second spell, and Michael Bracewell, who had played an intelligent and well-crafted 120, decided that he was going to have to get the victory himself.
The first ball of the over Bracewell gave a huge heave over long-on, and didn’t get anywhere near enough on it. Barry took the catch and the Aces had the victory by 13 runs.
Barry finished up with figures of 3-37 off seven overs, and O’Donnell picked up 2-19 off four.
The Aces remain unbeaten in their Ford Trophy defence, with their next match in Christchurch on Wednesday.
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