The ACES Ford Trophy finals hopes are still alive after a clinical five-wicket win over the Wellington Firebirds at Eden Park’s Outer Oval.
After Robert O’Donnell won the toss, Ben Lister was on fire with the new ball, ripping the heart out of the Firebirds top order. The ACES left-arm seamer picked up three of the first four wickets as the O’Donnell brothers snaffled three catches between them.
In between Lister’s triple strike, Ollie Pringle (3-70) trapped Finn Allen in front to pick up his first List-A wicket. When Lister (3-56) ended Amdrew Fletcher’s breezy 26, the visitors were in deep trouble at 41/4.
Troy Johnson and skipper Fraser Colson then fought back to bat the Firebirds out of trouble. The pair put on a Firebirds fifth-wicket record against the ACES, combining for 124 to wrest the initiative back in the visitor’s favour.
The partnership took time to build with spinners Will Somerville and Louis Delport tight through the middle, but the Firebirds duo were resilient. When wicketkeeper Ben Horne caught Colson (45), his 50th List-A catch, the ACES opened up an end.
Enter Jamie Gibson (64), who took all the scoring pressure of Johnson. Gibson hit 5 fours and 2 sixes to finish unbeaten on 64 off 38 balls, but the inning belonged to Johnson, who bettered Sunday’s effort of 80* by scoring his first List-A ton.
It was a day for record stands with Johnson (113) and Gibson putting on the Firebirds sixth-wicket record against the ACES with a partnership of 99. The death overs belonged to the Firebirds, adding 110 from the final ten overs and finishing with 283/6.
Despite the early loss of Graeme Beghin for 10, the ACES flew out of the blocks in reply. Sean Solia was given a life and threatened to make the Firebirds pay, hitting a run-a-ball 34 before Peter Younghusband snuck his first ball past the left-hander’s attempted reverse-sweep.
From there, the O’Donnell brothers, William and Robert steadied the ACES ship with a third-wicket stand of 132. Younger brother William was again the cornerstone of the ACES batting effort, turning his fifth consecutive fifty into a well-deserved maiden List-A century.
With the Firebirds bowler at his mercy, William O’Donnell’s outstanding knock came to an end when he picked out the incoming deep square fielder on 106 off 120 balls. Jakob Bhula then added the wicket of Robert O’Donnell (59), who scored his 9th List-A fifty, to the wicket of Will to put the match back in the balance.
A late blitz by Horne (38*) and Brad Rodden (21) then took the ACES to the brink as the pair reduced the equation from 51 off 42 to 13 off 18 balls. Rodden hit a pair of sixes in the 46th over before Horne backed it up two fours to release the pressure. When Rodden picked out long-on, Somerville joined Horne to finish things off in the 48th over as the ACES clinched a second Ford Trophy win of 2020/21.