26 Jun, Sunday

Champions but a tough loss to finish


Champions but a tough loss to finish

Iain LaxonAces

Day 4

A late effort by the Mondiale Aces’ lower order batsmen and supreme effort from leading wicket taker Tarun Nethula weren’t enough to maintain the side’s unbeaten record for the season. However with the Plunket Shield already secured the round before the Aucklanders were able to enjoy receiving the shield and toasting their victory. The season saw them finish with 6 wins, 3 draws and a single loss.

Despite the loss to Central there were several bright spots from the day. Early in play it was impressive pluck from first the duo of Tarn Nethula and Donovan Grobbelaar who gave their side early hope. After Nethula’s wicket Grobbelaar and Michael Bates were highly impressive in keeping their side in the match. Grobbelaar able to go past 50 just after the lunch interval. However not long after that milestone he and Bates had a running mix up and he had to depart. Bates would follow not long after and then it was left to Quinn and Ferguson to try and keep their side in the match.

The pair have enjoyed a number of useful if not short partnerships for Auckland lately but today would prove the exception. The pair united for over 50 quick fire runs as they frustrated Central and gave Auckland more time in the game. Quinn in particular showed flourish as he sent two deliveries into the stands at McLean Park. However his stand with Ferguson couldn’t last and he was snatched going for one more big shot. The pair had done a valuable job however as they set Central 199 to win.

Central then looked like they may coast away with the game as openers Ben Smith and Greg Hay calmly went about their work. However is so often the case in cricket one wicket made a significant difference. Nethula and Cachopa combined to dismiss Ben Smith just before his 50 and things turned suddenly. From there pressure from the Auckland bowlers and consistent wickets from Nethula kept things interesting to the close. A high energy spell from Nethula saw him claim 5 wickets for the day seemingly out of nowhere leaving Central rocked. Nethula and Cachopa combined for his 4th wicket to see Cachopa break the outstanding record for most dismissals in a Plunket Shield season by any player. The wicket not only a record for Cachopa but also Nethula’s 200 hundred first-class wicket.

However even that inspired spell and rapidly fading light weren’t enough to keep the Stags from claiming the match with just a few overs to spare.

Full scorecard here

Final Points Table here

Day 3

A strong day with the bat and ball from the Stags sees them in a commanding position at home.

On a surface that until this afternoon had dramatically favoured the batsmen, the Mondiale Aces came unstuck in dramatic fashion. Earlier in the day, Ben Smith had once again led from the front for the Central Stags. Smith made his fifth First-class ton a big one as he found several willing partners to push the Stags along. Quick fire runs late from Doug Bracewell were key in giving the Stags a helpful lead. Skipper Will Young most probably would have liked more than a 68-run cushion but the buffer proved more than enough to trouble Auckland.

Central Districts had luck with the new ball on the first day and it once again worked for them against the Mondiale Aces’ top order. Raval, Guptill-Bunce and O’Donnell were all able to get starts but none were able to provide the guiding hand their side needed.

The trio were also the top run scorers for Auckland in the Plunket Shield season. Raval finishing on 780, Guptill-Bunce on 859 and O’Donnell 721. O’Donnell came close to playing the calm hand needed but after the wickets of Cachopa and Hicks was also unable to hang on. In a dominant period for the Stags, Colin de Grandhomme was also unable to keep his wicket and had to follow on O’Donnell’s heels. The experienced duo of Tarun Nethula and Donovan Grobbelaar were suddenly tasked with taking the day to a close and nursing Auckland’s lead. The pair of calm heads safely took their side to the end of the day and notched a lead of 42. The final day will need to see a lot of fight from the Mondiale Aces if they are any hope of finishing the season unbeaten.

Full scorecard here.

Day 2

The McLean Park wicket lived up to its reputation as a batsman friendly surface as Central Districts were able to build through the day thanks to several strong partnerships. Leading the Stags was Ben Smith who notched his fifth first-class century. 

First up in the day the Mondiale Aces’ final wicket pairing of Lockie Ferguson and Matt Quinn were able to briefly frustrate the Stags and add a few more runs onto the side’s overnight title. However they couldn’t hang around for long and the Aucklanders were eventually all out for 396 as Lockie Ferguson gave Blair Tickner his only wicket for the innings. Central Districts then had a good slice of the morning to get their chase going. The opening duo of Ben Smith and Greg Hay were able to ease things along well for the home side. The pair bringing up a fifty run stand shortly before the lunch interval in Napier.

However after lunch and just short of their next milestone Donovan Grobbelaar was able to provide the breakthrough the Mondiale Aces were eagerly seeking. Hay dismissed caught behind helping Brad Cachopa edge closer to the record for most keeper dismissals in a Plunket Shield season. Hay’s wicket provided one of the only purple patches of the day for the Mondiale Aces as Matt Quinn was able to dismiss new man Mitch Renwick in the very next over. But Central skipper Will Young was quick to stamp out any Auckland thoughts of collapse as he hung on with Smith. Ben Smith made his way past 50 after the Central Stags reached 100 and then he and Young were able to enjoy a fifty run partnership. The pair also saw the Stags past 150 before Young lost his wicket to Tarun Nethula on 29. Smith was then joined by another useful Stag in Tom Bruce and the pair combined to have the Stags ticking along well again. Late in the afternoon Smith was able to reach his milestone. Smith had to wait through the 90s and pick his moments to score as Auckland looked to put the squeeze on. After the 100 milestone Smith and Bruce celebrated a 50 partnership.

Auckland were then given hope by the arrival of the new ball but Smith and Bruce looked to be handling things well as they first notched 250 for Central and then a hundred run partnership. But things came unstuck for Bruce on 48 as Lockie Ferguson found the edge of his bat and Jeet Raval’s safe hands claimed the catch. Dane Cleaver then joined Smith in the middle and helped the set man take Central to the close 280/4. The closing mark meaning Central are still 116 runs from drawing level with the Mondiale Aces.

Full scorecard here.

Day 1

A strong century performance from Jeet Raval with the bat plus a number of key contributions have the Mondiale Aces in a solid position after day one against the Central Stags. The day finished with the Mondiale Aces 382/9 and Central looking most threatening with a new ball Doug Bracewell’s hand. 

Raval’s 147 was not only his 14th first-class ton but it also took him past 1000 runs for this first-class season. The impressive scoring feat coming across matches for Auckland and New Zealand A. The achievement made even more remarkable given the talented opener had a tough lean period in the middle of the season. His ability to fight back from the lull testament to his abilities and belief.

Earlier in the day Raval had been looking for a partner to help build Auckland’s innings after his skipper Michael Bates asked him and Michael Guptill-Bunce to bat first at McLean Park. Despite an early positive scoring start Michael Guptill-Bunce fell to an inform Doug Bracewell who was enjoying himself with the new ball in Napier. It then wasn’t long before Bracewell had Robbie O’Donnell heading back under the stands for just 11. It wasn’t until the arrival of Brad Cachopa that Auckland were able to steady things and build their innings.

Raval was playing a cautious hand and Cachopa went past him in scoring as the pair took their side to lunch at 83/2. However the break proved unsettling for Cachopa with that man Bracewell providing for his Stags just after the break. Cachopa having to go for a hard fought 41. Not long after Cachopa’s wicket Raval and new man Shawn Hicks were able to take Auckland past 100. Raval then notched his half-century and he and Hicks were able to play out a big section of the early afternoon adding a 50 partnership. Hicks was then able to reach his own half-century, his first in first-class cricket. Hicks lost his wicket shortly after reaching the milestone and it was up to the experienced duo of Raval and Colin de Grandhomme to guide the Mondiale Aces to tea. The pair were able to do just that and bring up 200 for Auckland before the break.

After the break the combination were able to push the scoring rate along well as they mixed their well-known boundary hitting abilities with singles and twos to keep unsettling the locals. Raval then brought up his 14th first-class century before he and de Grandhomme were able to put together stands of 50 and then 100 for the 5th wicket. de Grandhomme was able to reach his own half-century just after the visitors went past 300. The pair were looking to see in the new ball but Raval was unfortunately out just short of the mark on 147. He’d reached the special 1000 run mark when on 141. The new ball saw a sharp spell from the Stags with the final 14 overs before the close of play netting them four wickets. Contributions in that time from Grobbelaar, Bates, Ferguson and Quinn helping to keep the Aucklanders ticking over. Doug Bracewell in the process also picking up five wickets in the day.

Ferguson and Quinn not for the first time this season enjoying a positive last wicket stand together. The pair able to take their side to the close with a flourish. Matt Quinn hitting the day’s only six into the stands at McLean Park off the second to last ball of play.

Full scorecard here.