The Auckland ACES have overcome rain delays and a tiring wicket to defeat Central Stags, Shield holders, by 38 runs after a seesaw final day at a brisk Outer Oval.
Ben Horne and Will Somerville blazed away during the first half-hour, quickly taking the ACES lead past 200. Somerville pulled handsomely to get the ACES rolling before an elegant push through the covers. Horne matched his partner with a glance off his pads and then a well-placed punch off the back foot.
Somerville fell victim to a delivery that stayed low and caught his inside edge, but not before putting on his highest First Class score of 42. The eighth-wicket partnership set the mood for what proved to be a tense afternoon.
Horne continued on to a match-defining 55* from 154 deliveries as the ACES declared at 189/9, leaving the Stags 79 overs to chase 231 for victory.
The ACES knew they would need to be patient. Kyle Jamieson again made the ACES’ first breakthrough, this time enticing Greg Hay to leave a delivery that ultimately crashed into his off stump.
Matt McEwan followed suit when George Worker’s attempted pull was brilliantly taken by a diving Horne down the legside. Sean Solia then took the first of his two scalps, nipping one back at a driving Ross Taylor.
Martin Guptill didn’t need a second invitation to remind the Stags not to take on his arm. Brad Schmulian cut towards backward point and called Ben Smith through for a single. Guptill took aim at the one stump he could see and Smith was caught short.
Dane Cleaver found the best way to survive was to attack. The Stags wicketkeeper appeared to be batting on a different pitch to many others throughout the match, scoring freely for much of his innings.
Cleaver and Schmulian began to swing the chase in the Stags favour, adding 88 for the fifth wicket. Solia’s slower ball in the over before tea provided the ACES with an opening and the boost they needed going into the final session.
The Stags still had Cleaver at the wicket and Jamie Brown would account for his partner Willem Ludick soon after the resumption. Jamieson angled one back towards Cleaver’s front pad, the ACES appealed and the Stags were seven down.
The final three wickets fell in the space of 13 deliveries as McEwan wrapped up the tail. Appropriately so, McEwan and Horne combined to finish the Stags off – McEwan with both his eighth wicket in the match and 150th First Class scalp, while Horne claimed his eighth catch.