Runners-up in the Dream11 Super Smash, winners of the Ford Trophy! The ACES sat at the right end of the Ford Trophy points table throughout the competition and had already secured a home Final before a stumble in the last couple of round-robin matches.
It was possibly the season’s strongest ACES’ XI which took the field on the Outer Oval as the Volts batted first with Hamish Rutherford and Mitch Renwick getting the visitors off to a flying start, the first 50 coming up in just under 7 overs.
Sadly for Otago though, having just lost Renwick superbly run out by Colin Munro’s direct hit, they had the ill-fortune to see Rutherford retire hurt after being hit in the helmet by a bouncer from Lockie Ferguson. He was subsequently unable to take any further part in the game.
Shortly after, Dean Foxcroft also had to leave the field following a nasty collision with Glenn Phillips, which left the Otago batsman prone and receiving attention from medical staff for some minutes.
Fortunately Foxcroft was able to resume his innings, but these injuries robbed the Volts of precious momentum, and in Rutherford’s case removed a player who looked in commanding form. The introduction of the Auckland spinners also slowed the scoring rate significantly – the slower trio of Delport, Phillips and Chapman conceded just 4.6 runs an over while the pacey three of Lister, Jamieson and Ferguson went for 6.3 runs an over. Both groups captured four wickets apiece.
At 187/7 it looked as though the pendulum had swung well and truly in the ACES’ favour, but a 58-run eighth-wicket partnership between Anaru Kitchen and skipper Jacob Duffy brought the southerners back into the game and their final tally of 283 was always going to take some chasing.
The task became all the more challenging when the in-form Martin Guptill edged the second ball of the innings into the slip cordon. Jeet Raval’s wicket followed in the sixth over, but Phillips joined Munro, who was beginning to dominate as only he can. By the time Phillips was lbw to left-arm wrist spinner Michael Rippon for 20, he and Munro had added 67.
There were more twists in this tale yet though. Munro played superbly for his 104 off 60 balls. It was his third Ford Trophy century this summer and included plenty of his trademark power-hitting, 90 of his runs coming from boundaries. However, there were also some of the deft touches and sweet timing that characterise Munro at his best.
When he was out, the score was still only 149/4. When O’Donnell was out 24 runs later the ACES were well ahead of the required run rate, but wickets in the bank were beginning to be an issue. At one end, Mark Chapman was looking comfortable and organised, and now Ben Horne joined him to score a busy and inventive 42 out of the 63 the pair added together. All of a sudden the game was looking secure for Auckland again.
Ford Trophy Finals over the years have regularly offered more than their share of drama, however, and the 2020 edition would prove to be no exception. Duffy, who’d struck the first blow in removing Guptill and then returned to bowl Munro, came back once more and saw off Horne and Jamieson in quick succession.
Nathan Smith bowled Lockie Ferguson and all of a sudden the ACES needed 31 runs with just two wickets in hand. Step up Mark Chapman who had composed the perfectly-paced innings. He had contentedly played second fiddle first to Munro and then to Horne, while all the while batting with an air of unruffled confidence. Now he calmly manipulated the strike, placing singles at the end of an over after turning down comfortable runs earlier in the stanza.
Then choosing the moment, he finished it off with three sixes in the 44th over to take Auckland to a two-wicket victory, recapturing the Ford Trophy last won by the ACES two seasons ago. Like the Eden Park ODI a week before, it was a match which highlighted the virtues of the 50-over format: the fluctuating fortunes, the subtleties and the intrigue which the shorter game just doesn’t have time to deliver.
While it was satisfying to see the spoils come to Auckland, you couldn’t help but feel for the Otago side. Last summer they lost another thrilling final to the Wellington Firebirds by three wickets, also a game that saw the advantage shift throughout the day and which ultimately could have gone either way.
This year, thanks in large part to Munro’s early onslaught, there were a few more overs to spare for Auckland. However, the two-wicket margin shows how close this game was, even after the Volts’ terrible luck with the two early injuries. It took two very special innings from Munro and Chapman to get the ACES home.
On any other day, Jacob Duffy’s crucial late order 24 and his four wickets, all taken at critical times, would have won him a player of the match award. This time he had to return to Dunedin empty-handed, but certainly with his and his team’s reputation enhanced.
A treat to be able to see some of the first day of the Test Match in Wellington, where the special scenes weren’t limited to the events surrounding Ross Taylor’s 100th Test match. Wellington also celebrated the re-opening of the 95 year-old ‘Museum’ stand after its rebuilding to meet earthquake standards.
Also reopening with appropriate fanfare was the Player’s Pavilion at the Northern End of the ground, again after earthquake strengthening. It has now deservedly been renamed the Ewen Chatfield Pavilion.
Chatfield is now engaged in an ambassador and mentoring role with the Wellington Firebirds. Over lunch, he told the delightful story of how a zealous security staff member recently wouldn’t let him into the pavilion to go to the Wellington dressing room (where he is a regular and respected visitor) because he didn’t have the correct documentation.
Now, Chatfield said with a twinkle in his eye, he would be able to ask the security personnel what right they had to be in “his” pavilion. It was clear for all to see just how much this recognition meant to him.
On a day when one of the country’s most admired cricketers was being honoured on the field, it was appropriate to see another of our game’s most respected being celebrated in this way at the ground where he played such a huge part throughout his career.
The icing on the cake was Kyle Jamieson’s memorable first day of Test cricket. There was something special when it was Ross Taylor in his 100th Test who held in his fingertips the catch to dismiss Virat Kohli off Jamieson in his first Test.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the WHITE FERNS have started their T20 World Cup challenge with victory over Sri Lanka. During the New Zealand chase Sophie Devine reached her sixth consecutive T20I fifty. No one else has strung together more than four consecutive fifties in T20 internationals.
It’s a busy week ahead for the WHITE FERNS as they take on India, Bangladesh and Australia in their quest to get beyond pool play, and already India’s victory over Australia has upset the form book. Between the Black Caps at home and the White Ferns across the Tasman we have an interesting ten days or so of international cricket in front of us.