A record partnership wasn’t enough for the Auckland ACES, who lost to Northern Districts by four wickets in Round Two of the Ford Trophy.
Batting first, a disastrous start saw Graeme Beghin, Colin Munro and Robert O’Donnell all dismissed in the powerplay.
The opening burst by Northern Districts’ Jake Gibson (3-56) continued his Cobham Oval stranglehold on the ACES, dating back to his debut last summer, where he picked up five wickets.
Will O’Donnell steadied the decks for the ACES, battling his way through to a 90-ball half-century. It was O’Donnell’s first fifty in ACES blue and an important one as he lost partners regularly. A ball after raising his willow, the ACES No. 3 was bowled by Joe Walker.
Despite starts by Ben Horne, Brad Rodden and Ryan Harrison, the ACES slid further to 122/7. The ACES best partnership then came from unlikely duo Will Somerville (39*) and debutant Ross ter Braak (42*), who put on an unbeaten 80 runs – a new eighth-wicket record for Auckland against Northern Districts.
With 202/7 on the board, early wickets were a must for the ACES. The ND pair, Katene Clarke (42) and Jeet Raval, again went past fifty for the first wicket to ensure that didn’t happen. Clarke hit 6 boundaries before Somerville enticed the right-hander into one big shot too many. Louis Delport then took two wickets in two overs to keep the ACES hopes alive.
At 75/3, it was game on. Bharat Popli (57*) and Anton Devcich (40) soaked up the pressure, while the ACES took the pace of the ball. The ND pair added 65 runs, confidently taking the sting out of a tricky chase.
Left-arm spinner Delport continued to be a threat throughout, finishing with figures of 2-26 from his ten overs, while Ryan Harrison picked up two of his own as ND chased a second bonus point.
ACES Skipper Robbie O’Donnell brought himself on with ND requiring four to win and nabbed the consolation wicket of Peter Bocock. That was the last of the late drama, however, with Gibson adding the winning runs to his earlier efforts with the ball.
The ACES return home to prepare for Sunday’s Round Three match against the Otago Volts at Eden Park’s Outer Oval.