26 Jun, Sunday

Mondiale Auckland Aces - A Season of Highlights


Mondiale Auckland Aces – A Season of Highlights

Iain LaxonAces

Georgie Pie Super Smash – Champions – 5 wins, 3 losses and 2 matches abandoned

The Mondiale Auckland Aces’ Georgie Pie Super Smash campaign had all the drama possible in a short competition. Proven stars shone even brighter than before, young players were thrown into the deep end, injuries caused selection changes, leaders stood up when most needed and even the weather tried to influence the competition’s story arc.

Watch the highlights from the Georgie Pie Super Smash final against the Otago Volts below.

As well as the team highlight of winning the Georgie Pie Super Smash trophy the competition was filled with a number of impressive individual performances. Colin Munro scorched through the competition with his flowing bat to be top run scorer. His efforts with the blade just a hint at the show he would put on for the BLACKCAPS T20 side later in the season. Munro and Colin de Grandhomme gave the Mondiale Aces a dynamic edge in the middle and the pair played a key role with some of the big hitters from the Central Stags in setting the record for the most sixes hit in a T20 match. Munro’s power and ability to deliver under pressure was on show throughout the season but shone through when he and de Grandhomme were nominated to take on a super over against the Canterbury Kings. A typically ice calm bowling performance from Michael Bates had restricted Canterbury to just 5 runs from their batting over and Auckland’s pair of Colins needed just 6 runs from 6 balls to take victory. In a show of the sublime form he was in Munro needed just one ball to take victory as he sent the ball flying back past Hamish Bennett and over the Eden Park Outer Oval boundary.

The Colins weren’t the only players however to step up with the bat for the Mondiale Aces, skipper Rob Nicol also featured in the competitions top run scorers as he played a number of vital innings. The most important of these coming in the final as he top scored and held the Mondiale Aces innings together to get them to a total that could be defended. Nicol’s experience and ability to manipulate the scoring rate proving vital on several occasions. His influence wasn’t limited to the bat though as he also featured in the tournament’s top ten wicket takers. Nicol formed an expert partnership with Tarun Nethula and time and time again they were able to put pressure on opposing sides and extract vital wickets. The pair often got their side back into games in the middle stages as they frustrated teams trying to score freely.

BLACKCAPS live wire Mitchell McClenaghan led the Mondiale Aces wickets chart as he mixed ceaseless energy and cunning variations to chip out regular wickets at a variety of stages. McClenaghan’s most memorable spell coming at a time when his side needed a moment of magic with the Otago Volts getting away on them in the final. McClenghan stepped up and took all charge out of the Volts as he claimed three wickets in four balls to completely turn the match on its head. Despite the best efforts of Nathan McCullum Otago were never able to recover from McClenaghan’s match turning moment. Donovan Grobbelaar was just behind his Howick Pakuranga teammate on the wicket taking ladder as he had another fantastic season with the white ball. Grobbelaar once again put his full range of skills on show in the competition as he used his ability to move the ball and control his length to claim 14 scalps.

It wasn’t just Auckland’s experienced guns who helped them to Georgie Pie Super Smash glory this season, Robbie O’Donnell, Shawn Hicks and Mark Chapman all made their T20 debuts for the side and added significantly to the team. O’Donnell was the first to get a taste as he was able to notch a very calmly made 50 on debut in what ended up as a losing effort to the Central Stags. The result could’ve been far darker for the Aucklanders had it not been for O’Donnell’s runs. Hicks was next to make his way into the Georgie Pie arena and looked assured in his only chance in the competition. Mark Chapman was the last to make his debut and did so in the most high pressure circumstances entering the finals series. However with extensive international experience for Hong Kong, Chapman was quickly at home under the Yarrow Stadium lights as his electric fielding and handy bowling quickly proved a useful addition to the team.

Geogrie Pie Supersmash Points Table here.

Listen to Mondiale Aces skipper Rob Nicol after the final below.

Ford Trophy – 4th Place – 4 wins and 4 losses

The Ford Trophy fully tested the Mondiale Aces squad depth and was an exciting time for a number of players who were given a chance in the limited overs competition. With regular skipper Rob Nicol out of the early rounds recovering from a knee injury Colin Munro and Michael Bates were both given the chance to lead the side during the competition. Mitchell McClenaghan and Martin Gutpill were also both on full time BLACKCAPS duty for the duration of the competition. 

In a promising start to the competition, Glenn Phillips one of the players given a chance to shine provided with his very first innings. The dynamic New Zealand U19 and Howick Pakuranga batsman powering to a century in just his third List A game. Skipper Colin Munro joined Phillips in reaching a hundred in the match as the Mondiale Aces impressively chased down Otago’s score of over 300. Phillips however wasn’t able to complete the entire campaign for Auckland as he joined the New Zealand Under 19 squad to travel to their World Cup.

Phillips was the first player to step up when given the chance in the 50 over format and several others followed. Michael Guptill-Bunce, Robbie O’Donnell, Mark Chapman and Shawn Hicks all showed they have a lot of talent to offer the competition in future years. Michael Barry was also given a Ford Trophy chance and showed he is still firmly in the minds of Auckland selectors. Given his first chance at List A level Michael Guptill-Bunce quickly showed why he’s been able to score runs for fun at club level in recent seasons as he turned on his ability to score runs quickly at the top. He notched a debut score of 73 and finished with an average of 30 after 6 matches. Robbie O’Donnell made the most of his extended run in the coloured clothes for Auckland as he scored a series of key runs for the Mondiale Aces in the middle order. O’Donnell strode out to bat on 8 occasions and stacked up 268 runs at an average of 33.50 with two half-centuries. O’Donnell also proved more than handy with the ball as he was given the responsibility of supporting leading spinner Tarun Nethula in the middle overs. Listen to Mondiale Aces coach Mark O’Donnell on Nethula’s importance to the side here. 

Mark Chapman is approaching veteran status for Hong Kong but he made his first forays for Auckland in the 2015/16 season. His sublime efforts against the Central Stags in the Ford Trophy well and truly put him in lights as a player to be watched in coming seasons on the New Zealand scene. Batting at six and coming in with his side in real strife Chapman went about making a sublime 159. The knock his first century in any format for the Mondiale Aces and the joint second highest score by an Auckland player in List A cricket. The innings having him sit just behind Parnell club mate and Auckland stalwart Tim McIntosh. Chapman often made batting look easy during the innings as he played shots around the ground in a calm and controlled manner. A Stags bowling line up that had been in full control of the game were suddenly scrambling for ideas to budge Chapman. The talented youngster played the latter half of his innings on one leg as cramp started to slow him down prior to his dismissal. That innings and Chapman’s century on ODI debut for Hong Kong late last year show the 21-year-old has plenty to offer Auckland.

In the Ford Trophy bowling stakes Lockie Ferguson, Donovan Grobbelaar and Tarun Nethula all played key roles for the Auckland side. Ferguson and Grobbelaar ended the competition as the side’s top wicket takers and showed they could form a strong partnership in coming seasons. Both players showed an impressive ability to take wickets at different stages of an innings as Auckland’s leaders rotated their bowlers through a match. Tarun Nethula also showed why he is a key cog in the bowling arsenal as he controlled things for his side during the middle overs and used his guile to take wickets and restrict teams.

Ford Trophy Points Table here.

Listen to Mondiale Ace and Hong Kong international Mark Chapman on his debut century for Auckland below.

Plunket Shield – Champions – 6 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss

In a remarkable effort the Mondiale Aces were able to secure the most coveted prize in New Zealand domestic cricket with an entire competition round to play for the first time since the 2008/09 season. The Auckland side’s impressive record throughout the season meaning a draw with fellow front runners Wellington at the Basin Reserve secured the title. 

The title winning season was born from a number of different factors and featured some highly significant milestones. The structure of the Plunket Shield season means all sides play their matches in three different windows with two gaps between rounds for white ball competitions. The nature of the season with six rounds in a row to finish means side’s need to have a strong squad mix to keep in the hunt throughout. The Mondiale Auckland Aces proved they had exactly that as coach Mark O’Donnell and skipper Rob Nicol asked for match winning performances from a range of players and a range of players delivered. The tone was set for the competition as the side secured home and away wins against two time defending champions Canterbury and the Northern Knights.

Over the course of the ten rounds Rob Nicol, Michael Bates and Colin Munro all led the side. Mark Chapman, Shawn Hicks and Nathan McAndrew all won their first caps for Auckland in first-class cricket and the side remained unbeaten at home. Those were just a few headlines in a season of highlights. To claim a first-class title a team needs to put up some impressive numbers and the team were able to do just that.

  • Jeet Raval notched a 1000 runs for the first-class season in innings for Auckland and NZ A. His 780 runs for Auckland are the 10th most for Auckland in a season. He also notched his second first-class double hundred. 
  • Robbie O’Donnell, Michael Guptill-Bunce and Donovan Grobbelaar all scored their maiden first-class hundreds. Guptill-Bunce and O’Donnell would both recorded two for the season.
  • Michael Guptill-Bunce’s 859 runs are fifth most by an Auckland player in a season and he was the competition’s fourth top run scorer.
  • Brad Cachopa broke his own Auckland record of 39 for Plunket Shield wicket keeping dismissals in season and then broke the all time record across all MAs with 45.
  • Tarun Nethula took his first 10 wicket haul for a match as he bowled the Mondiale Aces to victory against the Central Stags with 5 and 6 wicket bags.
  • Nethula also took his 100th first-class wicket for Auckland during the season and went past 200 first-class wickets overall as he finished as the competition’s second highest wicket taker.
  • Lockie Ferguson took three five wicket bags as he went past 50 first-class wickets and finished as the competition’s ninth highest wicket taker.

Listen to Michael Bates on securing the Plunket Shield with a full round to go below.

Michael Bates retired after the final round of the Plunket Shield, read our tribute to the man known as the “heart and soul” of the Auckland team here.

Plunket Shield Points Table here.