Result: Mondiale Auckland Aces 284 &211-5 (Jeet Raval 90) beat the SKYCITY Northern Knights 253 &241 (Anton Devcich 64) by 5 wickets.
The Mondiale Auckland Aces have got their season off to a winning start, picking up a five wicket win in their opening Plunket Shield match against the SKYCITY Northern Knights in Whangarei.
Their task on day four was tricky, requiring 211 on a pitch which had caused problems for the batsmen throughout the match. Despite some late wickets though, the Aces weren’t to be denied and new skipper Rob Nicol made a winning start to his first season in charge.
However, Nicol (7) had earlier been the Knights first scalp of the day, with Graeme Aldridge making the breakthrough in the 14th over.
The Aces then solidified through Jeet Raval (90) and Carl Cachopa (52), who took their side within 100 of their target. Cachopa departed soon after, but Raval continued to anchor the side, falling when they were just 16 short of victory.
Some late wickets made the scorecard look a little more respectable for the Knights, with Aldridge and Ish Sodhi picking up two wickets apiece. However, Raval’s stubbornness at the crease turned out to be the difference between the two sides.
The team’s attention now turns to the Georgie Pie Super Smash, with the Aces to face Otago and the Knights to face Wellington on Saturday.
DAY TWO: SKYCITY Northern Knights 253 trail Mondiale Auckland Aces 261-7 in 99 overs (Brad Cachopa 67, Colin Munro 57, Anaru Kitchen 53, Mitchell Santner 38-3) by 8 runs.
The SKYCITY Northern Knights tail was cleaned up for nine runs in three overs on the resumption, with Scott Kuggeleijn the last to go, ending his innings on 66 with his team on 253 for the first innings.
New Mondiale Auckland Aces skipper Rob Nicol won't have fond memories of his first innings in that capacity, edging Graeme Aldridge to BJ Watling for one run, leaving Jeet Raval (18) and Carl Cachopa (17) to try and build the innings. The Knights seamers made scoring difficult early, and Cachopa was dropped by Daryl Mitchell in the slips on two from Kuggeleijn, but Mitchell came back to grab the same player 15 runs later from Tony Goodin.
Colin Munro was in great touch, bringing out the switch hit to Ish Sodhi a couple of times and struck seven fours and a six in his 57 rom just 75 balls, as was Anaru Kitchen who took 114 balls for his 53.
The spin of Sodhi (82-1) and Mitchell Santner (38-3) got the wickets through the middle order, and the pair dismissed Munro, Colin de Grandhomme and Kitchen for two runs to have the Aces 149-6.
The Aces fought back through Brad Cachopa (67 including ten fours) and Donovan Grobbelaar (41*) putting on 112 together to give the Aces the lead by eight runs heading into day three.
DAY ONE: Northern Knights 244-8 (Scott Kuggeleijn 60* Mitchell Santner 57, Anton Devich 42, Matt Quinn 2-55).
The first day of the Plunket Shield brought to you by Budget Car & Truck Rental began at Whangarei's Cobham Oval in the winterless north with the SKYCITY Northern Knights Daniel Flynn winning the toss against the Mondiale Auckland Aces debutant captain Rob Nicol and deciding to bat first. Anton Devcich and Daniel Flynn took their time getting to grips with the surface before Donovan Grobbelaar picked up Flynn for 25 in the 10th over.
Skippers Daniel Flynn and Rob Nicol with the toss - photo courtesy @AucklandCricket
Devcich made it through the first session without much support from the Knights middle order. Joe Carter was dropped before being then caught by Colin Munro from Matt Quinn's bowling for a duck, while Daryl Mitchell and Bharat Popli barely troubled the scorers. Devich went just after lunch lbw to Quinn before BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner slowly turned things around on a pitch that was offering some variable bounce for Tarun Nethula. Watling made 31 from 79 balls before going back to a Nethula delivery and being trapped lbw.
Santner and Scott Kuggeleijn took the Knights past the 200 mark before Grobbelaar picked up the former caught by Brad Cachopa down leg for 57 from 103. Conditions became gloomy as the weather closed in but Kuggeleijn made his half century before the rain came and was 60* when the covers came out with 17 overs still due to be bowled in the day.
The Knights will be grateful to their lower order for recovering from 82-5, while the Aces let a decent chance to roll the hosts on day one slip away. Play resumes at 10.30am tomorrow.