Andy Ellis sealed the outright with an unbeaten run-a-ball 81

Canterbury nail 'amazing chase' to claim an outrageous outright

Plunket Shield round six: Mondiale Auckland Aces 294 all out in 93 overs (Raval 41, Munro 62, Brad Cachopa 131 not out; Nuttall 3-42) and 407/6 declared in 114.1 overs (Raval 67, Munro 137, Grobbelaar 63, Brad Cachopa 35 not out; Astle 4-138) lost to Canterbury 340 all out in 92.3 overs (Broom 46, Nicholls 102, Ellis 72, Henry 39; Bates 3-57) and 362/6 in 84.4 overs (Fulton 101, Broom 78, Nicholls 54, Ellis 81 not out) by four wickets at Colin Maiden Park, Auckland

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DAY FOUR result, final session: Canterbury posted their fifth-highest fourth innings total in history to snare an unlikely outright over the Mondiale Auckland Aces, lifting themselves from fifth to third on the Plunket Shield points table in the process, with just eight balls to spare on the rollicking last afternoon.

Captain Peter Fulton (101) got them into a winning position with his 16th first-class century, having batted for three and a half hours in total and taken total command of the middle session in partnership with Neil Broom (78), the Aces unable to claim either wicket before tea.

The patient pair surged on to 174 for the third wicket, before falling within two overs of each other in the last session. Aces skipper Rob Nicol did the business himself, busting through Broom's stumps when Fulton was on 99, before adding the big wicket of Fulton in his next over just after the well deserved century.

But the Aces' joy was short-lived as Henry Nicholls opened his account with a six, and set off on a relentless century stand with Andy Ellis, heaped with aggressive singles: a final charge at over run-a-ball pace that put Canterbury in clear sight of victory.

Nicholls, strong off the back foot and able to play delightfully late, slammed a four to match his partner's half-century, posting the Canterbury 350 at the same time. But Tarun Nethula ran him out on 54 in what developed into a dramatic finish, when Canterbury still required eight runs from the few remaining overs.

Suddenly, it became a double breakthrough as Todd Astle was trapped lbw by Lockie Ferguson. Canterbury, 358/6, still needed four runs from 2.1 overs. Surely this wasn't going down to the last over, even last ball?

After a handful of dots, just to thoroughly exaggerate the tension, cool-headed veteran Ellis successfully brought up the win, however, with one last boundary off Michael Bates.

It was a stunning victory and a costly loss for the Aces, as it denied the hosts a chance to overhaul the SKYCITY Northern Knights at the top of the table. Instead, the Aces and Knights are now equal top on points, with the Knights narrowly shading the Aces on net run rate for official pole position, with four rounds to go as the business end of the season begins.

DAY FOUR update at tea: Having built a lead of 315 on ‘moving day’, the Mondiale Auckland Aces looked to put some quick icing on the cake in the first half of the morning session.



They suffered a slight hiccup early when Todd Astle picked up his fourth wicket in Donovan Grobbelaar — who’d topped up his overnight half-century by 13 runs, the wicket bringing Tarun Nethula to the middle. With a positive Brad Cachopa, the pair swept the Aces past the 400 mark before captain Rob Nicol made his declaration at 407/6 — setting Canterbury a target of 362 to win, on an evidently good deck.
 
So the Aces were delighted to pick up two Canterbury wickets before lunch, Ronnie Hira the first to go after Dean Bartlett had the pocket destroyer caught for just 14. Then 18/1 became 42/2 as Bates dismissed Greg Dawson caught behind.

That brought together two seriously experienced campaigners in Peter Fulton and Neil Broom for the match-defining session. Fulton got his eye in and picked his way to 42 by the lunch break. They still needed another 281 runs by then, and began the middle session rather watchfully against Tarun Nethula and Lockie Ferguson.

Fulton eventually broke out with a boundary off Ferguson to post a 91-ball 50 as the duo started finding the four-balls to answer a required RPO that had climbed towards five runs per over. Broom followed suit by slamming a six off Michael Bates in a 12-over to post his own half-ton, shortly after they’d registered their 100 partnership.

The chase was down to 207. Bates suffered another six off his bowling as Fulton moved to 86, this wicketless session going all to script now for the visitors. By tea, the Canterbury captain had moved into the 90s, Broom standing firm in support on 66 as their stand swelled to 149*. The equation for the game’s last session? 171 runs to win.

DAY THREE

It was Colin Munro’s turn to steal the show at 'Colin’s' — posting a big, aggressive, seventh first-class century as the Mondiale Auckland Aces powered to a 315-run lead, and still only five down overnight.

Munro had stepped in six balls before lunch, and was yet to score when play resumed. Apart from that, pretty much the only time the exciting, bold hitter paused for breath in his innings was in the lead-ups to his fifty and century.

After Anaru Kitchen had been the first wicket down in the morning, Jeet Raval and Rob Nicol put the first hundred on the board for the Aces, Raval grabbing a half-century en route. Freeing his arms, Raval tucked into Ed Nuttall for a couple of consecutive boundaries, but it was third time unlucky as he nicked one behind — ushering in Munro on the edge of lunch, the Aces 120/2, a lead of 74.

Nicol fell on 24 after the break, Robbie O’Donnell joining Munro as he zeroed in on his first 50. A six off Todd Astle, who was in for a long’s day’s work, took Munro to 48, before he patiently batted out Astle’s follow-up: a maiden.

Andy Ellis gave him the opportunity he needed, however, as he punched the four that brought up his half-century off just 55 balls. Then his innings really started to gain speed as his strike rate escalated over 100. The century arrived off 98 deliveries, with another six — this time off Nuttall, on the last ball before tea.

Colin Munro breezed to 137 in little more than a session. Photosport.co.nz/Andrew Cornaga

The Aces led by 217 and Munro was the lead singer in the band, putting on a rock star performance. Resuming on 105, he was far from done with demoralising the Canterbury attack. He pelted two sixes in the same Astle over before the legspinner finally had the last say, Munro stumped by Cameron Fletcher when he was on a lofty 137.



With 10 fours and seven sixes he’d taken the Aces from 120/2 to 318/5 (a lead of 272), but moreover his quick work had bought them plenty of time to press on and turn the advantage into a thoroughly daunting one for Canterbury.

At stumps, there was no further loss, Donovan Grobbelaar posting his unbeaten half century just before close of play for an overall lead of 315, with five wickets in hand. The Aces were in the box seat.

Colin Maiden Park, Auckland. Photo courtesy of Andre Adams

DAY TWO

The highlight of the second day's play was Henry Nicholls' second first-class century, all but ensuring that Canterbury matched the Aces on the first innings.

By lunch he'd helped get Canterbury to 122/3, restoring order after Michael Bates had rocked them early in the first session with a double wicket maiden, accounting for both Greg Dawson and Peter Fulton (for no score), putting himself on a first-class hat-trick in the process in just his third over, for good-looking interim figures of 3-2-2-2.

There was a further shudder through the red and black camp when Dean Bartlett had Ronnie Hira caught for a brisk 22, before Nicholls took control.

Henry Nicholls has been in form throughout the season

With support from the older heads of Neil Broom (46, in a 110-run stand) and Andy Ellis (72, in a 116-run stand), the classy young batsman guided Canterbury back into a decent position, but an opportunity to surge ahead was lost at 254 when Nicholls became the fifth to fall, just before tea, shortly after having raised his bat for the three figures — then the tea break got a wicket with Todd Astle falling to Donovan Grobbelaar for a three-ball duck after the resumption, in the same Grobbelaar over.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Cameron Fletcher, playing his first Plunket Shield match since an ankle injury before Christmas, arrived at the crease and nonchalantly slapped Tarun Nethula for a six, but the leggie had his revenge not too long after when he had Fletcher caught and bowled. Now Canterbury were 284/7 — the visitors still trailing by 10 runs.

With help from new man Matt Henry, Andy Ellis finally nudged Canterbury ahead of the Aces in the last session, before Henry kicked on with a late 39 to build a small buffer of 56 before the last wicket fell on 340. The Aces faced six overs in repy at the end of the afternoon, without any loss, in what's shaping as a tit-for-tat game.

DAY ONE

If Colin Maiden isn't already Brad Cachopa's favourite ground, it will be soon, at this rate. The Aces' wicketkeeper-batsman began round six by bludgeoning his second first-class century in the space of three games against his former team Canterbury, having done the same against the Knights at the very same venue in round four.

Showing no outward sign of nerves, he got himself into the 90s by thundering a couple of sixes in the third session; took himself to 97 with a boundary off Matt Henry, tickled him for another two to get to 99 before a single next ball brought up the milestone off 142 balls, including 11 fours and three sixes in all, his strike rate over 70.

Having been within sight of a half-century at tea, he finished unbeaten after nearly four hours on a career-best 131, having restored a patchy Aces effort to respectability late on the opening day.

Despite a good start from Jeet Raval, the hosts had earlier been shaky at 124/5 when number seven Cachopa strode out to the middle on a hot afternoon in an endless summer. He guided his team to 294, after a lively 71-run stand with Dean Bartlett for the last wicket.

Bartlett had joined Cachopa when the latter was on 76, and it was the game number eleven who got the keeper safely to his second Plunket Shield ton, and beyond.

Brad Cachopa did it again

The Aces had jumped at batting first but it didn't go all to plan, Colin Munro following up Raval's efforts to get some runs on the board as teammates fell cheaply around them. His quick 62 from 59 changed the tone of the day, but it was a good start all the same for 21-year-old left-armer Ed Nuttall, who picked up Munro, Donovan Grobbelaar and Tarun Nethula for the lion's share of the wickets.

Canterbury had just two overs with the bat without loss before stumps at the end of the day.

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