WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2020
NORTHERN DISTRICTS beat AUCKLAND ACES by 63 runs
• Cobham Oval | Whangarei
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The heat was on to qualify for the 2019/20 Ford Trophy Finals in today's penultimate round of regular season action and while the Auckland Aces went in as the only side to have secured a top-three spot, they hadn't yet locked in the Grand Final and hosting rights ... with Canterbury still capable of usurping them.
However, after both sides lost their ninth-round clashes, the Aces were left with a big enough lead at the top of the table to lock in that Grand Final for Eden Park Outer Oval after all.
Despite having lost the toss, the Aces made a strong start in Northland, left-arm paceman Ben Lister ripping through three wickets in his opening six-over spell on the way to a List A career best six-fa.
Lister put himself on a hat-trick early by trapping ND captain Joe Carter and bowling BLACKCAP BJ Watling to have ND 35 for three after just the first 10 overs.
Spinner Louie Delport quickly picked up Henry Cooper to have the hosts in further trouble at 55 for four, but a fighting half century from opening batsman Katene Clarke (above, PHOTOSPORT) in a 72-run fifth-wicket stand with Peter Bocock put the Northern 100 on the scoreboard.
It was the young Clarke's second Ford Trophy 50 in his debut season, however, Finn Allen dealt another big blow by luring Clarke across to have him stumped for 69 off 79 balls, to put ND in a spot at 127 for five in the 31st.
A few overs down the track, Delport stopped Bocock (46) from reaching a half century, but an aggressive run-a-ball 57 from Brett Hampton kept ND in with a chance of a defendable total on the big ground.
Hampton hammered three sixes before Lister deceived him and rattled through his middle stump at the death. It was the start of three in five balls for the left-armer who removed debutant Jake Gibson and Anurag Verma off the second and third balls of the 49th over to dismiss ND for 237, Lister finishing with a career best 6-51 off 9.3 overs and the first 6-fa of his burgeoning career.
With Colin Munro back in the side and joining Jeet Raval fresh off his third List A century, that chase should have been reasonably straightforward - but ND was about to turn the game on its head.
At 110 for five in the 28th over, both Raval and Munro (40 off 53) were back in the hutch and the competition leaders still needed 128 runs at better than run a ball.
Jake Gibson, cousin of Zak, had just delivered a double wicket maiden for the first two wickets of his Ford Trophy career, getting Allen to edge an easy catch to Henry Cooper for his maiden before bowling the adventurous Ben Horne for a three-ball duck.
Earlier, Verma had done Raval with his awkward angle in just the fifth over before spinner Joe Walker stopped both Craig Cachopa and Munro from getting away on them.
Now, at the 30-over mark, the game was wide open and after O'Donnell was run out a few overs later, the Aces disintegrated for just their third loss of the campaign. However, with top of the table rivals Canterbury losing in Christchurch on the same afternoon, it meant the Aces could breathe easy: The Ford Trophy Grand Final was now locked in for Auckland after all.