The ACES fell six runs short of victory during a thrilling final session at the Outer Oval as the match with the Wellington Firebirds ended in a draw.
The day started with the Firebirds eager to build on their 104-run lead. Michael Bracewell was the driving force behind the visitors accelleration, hitting his second hundred of the match, this time off just 78 balls.
While the ACES chipped away at the Firebirds middle-order, there was a chance the hosts could bowl the Firebirds out and have a comfortable chase through the afternoon.
Bracewell (119) found support in Troy Johnson (39*) and the Firebirds eventually declared their second innings closed at 298/7, leaving the ACES a minimum of 71 overs to chase 273 runs for victory.
Danru Ferns, Will Somerville and Louis Delport all took two wickets for the ACES to help keep the target to something manageable.
The ACES opening stand between Glenn Phillips and Will O’Donnell was a strong one, taking the score out to 68 before losing Phillips for 43 off 59 deliveries.
It was then time for the Firebirds to hit back, with in-form Robbie O’Donnell the victim of the some sharp fielding in the covers. Shortly after tea, the ACES had slipped to 99/4 and the Firebirds had their tails up.
Less than halfway, the chase called for a partnership with the ACES at 135/5. Will Somerville joined Will O’Donnell and the pair kept the ACES in the contest. O’Donnell again showed his mettle, bringing up his second century to go with his maiden effort in the first inning.
Somerville (59) proved the perfect foil, raising the willow for his maiden First-Class fifty. The veteran took the pressure off O’Donnell throughout, as the ACES stayed on target.
All that was left to do was to win the match in fading light. O’Donnell took a blow to his helmet late on. O’Donnell carried on but it wasn’t to be with the Firebirds fielders patroling the boundary during the final stretch.
O’Donnell finished unbeaten on 137 off 210 balls to cap of a wonderful season for the 23-year old. Credit must go to both sides for playing attacking cricket until the final ball.
Onlookers at the Outer Oval witnessed history today, with Robert and William O’Donnell becoming just the fourth set of brothers to score centuries in the same domestic First-Class innings in New Zealand.
The pair became Auckland’s second duo after Cyril and Nessie Snedden, who were the first to pull off the feat, for Auckland against Hawkes Bay in 1920/21.
Robbie arrived at the ground having brought up his fifth First-Class hundred late on Day Two, while Will still required a further 21 runs to bring up his maiden ton.
The pair picked up where they left off, grinding away through the first hour of Day Three. Will eyed up his century in the lead-up to the second new ball but would have to face up to it on 99 not out, having powered a six over long-off in the 80th over.
Will wouldn’t be denied, scrambling a single through extra cover to bring up his hundred. The magnificent second-wicket stand finally ended at 232, when Will was strangled down the leg-side on 117.
The Firebirds then hit back either side of lunch through Ben Sears and Iain McPeake, firstly, with the wicket of Robbie for 142 off 268 balls. The middle-order then faltered as the ACES approached the visitors’ score of 342.
It took some time to edge in front after lunch. A session of attrition followed and the ACES would take a slender 26-run lead with four sessions to play.
Danru Ferns struck early; having changed ends in the 8th over, Ferns was helped by a diving Cole Briggs at forward square leg to dismiss Rachin Ravindra. The hosts had the better of a holding pattern as Will Somerville and Ferns gave little away. Somerville started his second innings’ efforts with four straight maidens.
Spinners Somerville and Louis Delport both struck when the Firebirds upped the ante in the final hour. Michael Bracewell and Luke Georgeson will resume on Day, having played contrasting knocks to take Wellington out to 130/3 and a lead of 104 runs.
Wellington’s intent suggests we are in for an exciting Day Four at the Outer Oval.
The ACES have had a near-perfect Day Two against the Wellington Firebirds at the Outer Oval.
It didn’t start quite the way the ACES will have wanted, patiently waiting an hour before Ross ter Braak (4-67) bounced out Peter Younghusband for 15.
Troy Johnson (46*) continue on, but the ACES were able to keep striking through the second hour with Will Somerville picking up 4-61 from his marathon 39.2 over spell.
Cole Briggs’ excellent catch at short leg helped the ACES through the Firebirds tail to see the visitors all out for 342.
Glenn Phillips (36) then wasted no time in getting the ACES on the front foot, hitting 3 fours and 3 sixes, but the best was yet to come. The O’Donnell brothers, Robbie and Will, then formed a partnership to drive the ACES ahead.
For Robbie, the golden end to the summer continued with his fifth First-Class century and his third in as many matches. The skipper will return to the crease on 100*, while Will made his way to a new career-best score, unbeaten 79 off 201 balls. The second-wicket partnership remains unbroken and currently sits at 171 runs.
The ACES positive approach saw them through to 220/1 and sets up an intriguing Moving Day at the Outer Oval.
The ACES were made to toil on Day One against the Wellington Firebirds, but honours are even after a full day’s play at the Outer Oval.
The day’s prospects looked rather different through the first 7.5 overs with Ross ter Braak tearing through the Firebirds top order.
The left-armer gave the ACES the perfect opening, with wicketkeeper Ben Horne taking a sharp one-handed catch diving low to his left.
An over later, Jakob Bhula’s mistimed pull fell to a scrambling Ryan Harrison at forward square leg. There was one moment left in ter Braak’s opening burst and that was to go through Luke Georgeson.
At 13/3, the ACES were well and truly on top. From there, Tom Blundell and Michael Bracewell slowly but surely rebuilt the Firebirds inning.
Blundell and Bracewell would not only see the Firebirds through to 89/3 at lunch, but also to 184/3 at tea. The Firebirds duo would eventually put on 217 for the fourth wicket, going blow for blow and both bringing up centuries in the lead up to the new ball.
Danru Ferns then hit back, first finding an outside edge of Bracewell (105) and then trapping Blundell in front (113). Ferns counterpunch with the new ball meant the ACES had two new players at the crease heading into the final hour of play.
The ACES had a sixth wicket when Will Somerville enticed Jamie Gibson (23) into one aggressive shot too many. The visitors will resume at 278/6 on Day Two.
Tomorrow’s first session will give both sides a clearer picture on who had a better Day One.
Image Credit: PhotoSport NZ