The Auckland Aces are just one point away from cementing a spot in the 2018 Ford Trophy Finals Series after a convincing away win over the Wellington Firebirds.
Sent in at the Basin, the Aces powered to 265 for nine thanks to 23-year-old Mark Chapman’s fourth List A century, his 117 off 104 balls giving the innings the stability it needed after the Aces had lost both openers early doors.
Batting into the 38th over before he was caught by Logan van Beek off leggie Peter Younghusband, Chapman shared a 99-run stand for the third wicket with an unusually watchful Glenn Phillips before the latter fell on 35 just after the halfway mark of the innings; then an 85-run stand with Sean Solia (31).
Van Beek and Ollie Newton had done the damage at the top, Newton’s economical 1-29 his best performance yet in the comp while van Beek removed Jeet Raval with just his second ball of the morning and carried on to figures of 10-2-55-3, adding the wickets of Michael Barry and Lockie Ferguson as the Aces lost a flurry of wickets at the death.
Having been 189 for four at the time of Chapman’s dismissal, Craig Cachopa and Michael Barry ensured the Aces quickly got the 200 on the board but both they and Tarun Nethula departed in the space of six balls, Luke Woodcock striking twice in an over.
They had handed over a solid baton to their tailenders, however, who belted quick runs — Mitch McClenaghan pumping a six to bring up the Aces’ 250 in the 48th over as the run rate powered up.
The Firebirds got off to a good start with Hamish Marshall and Malcolm Nofal both surviving the fiery opening assault from McClenaghan and Ferguson and climbing into the thirties, before Jamie Brown (4-38) made the first breakthrough in the 10th over.
Soon after, newbie paceman Brown was back for more, putting himself on a hat-trick with the wickets of Stephen Murdoch and Devon Conway, which Michael Bracewell managed to avert with a single.
But at 61 for three the Firebirds needed to regroup fast, and Bracewell’s fall in the 25th over on 15 was swiftly followed by opener Nofal (35), Michael Barry claiming them both in quick succession to give the Aces the advantage.
Despite a fighting 29 from rookie Alex Ridley in the tail, the Firebirds’ late order crumbled against McClenaghan to a 79-run defeat.
Second on the table, the Aces now head to Hagley Oval looking to continue Canterbury’s misery on Wednesday while the Birds will await the front-running Central Stags at the Basin.