An extraordinary — maiden and unbeaten — T20 ton from a 20-year-old bomb-smacking gun was the highlight of the packed final round encounter between the Auckland Aces and Central Stags. Yet, even after Glenn Phillips’ ballistic century, and a near-record Eden Park Outer Oval total of 212 for four in 20 overs, the Aces lost the match.
Rain was the judge of it, stopping the Stags’ reply when they were 82 without loss after eight overs and one wide in the ninth had been bowled — an 11-run advantage on the DLS system, which would prove decisive on all fronts when the weather did not abate in time for a resumption.
It was the second time in the season that the Stags had got the better of the defending champions, Mahela Jayawardena’s calm and typically classy unbeaten 45 off 21 balls, assisted by George Worker (29* off 27), pushing the top qualifiers quickly enough ahead, having just taken 15 off the eighth over.
For the Aces, in front of brimming banks in a house of some 2000 or more, it was devastating as they watched not only a match victory evaporate, but their chance of defending their title — the DLS loss locking them out of the playoffs on net run rate, after the Firebirds had got up at the Basin.
But loss or not, Glenn Phillips and Jeet Raval’s epic 113-run stand for the second wicket is the type of cricket that people remember. Phillips carried his bat, warming up gradually with intermittent boundaries through the first eight overs, after the early loss of captain Rob Nicol; then breaking out his first sixes back-to-back in the ninth once the spinners were on through the middle.
With six sixes in the space of three overs — four for Phillips and two for Raval as they freed the shoulders, the 100-stand was up in a jiffy of 58 balls as they both sped to half centuries.
Raval fell soon after to George Worker when Phillips was on 68*, then Sean Solia’s dismissal in the 15th, by which time Phillips was on 82* off just half as many balls, brought him fellow NZ U19s representative, 17-year-old Finn Allen, to the crease on Aces debut.
It was a heck of an occasion for the young man as they toned down the scoring for a short period against Seth Rance (who permitted only singles and a no ball off his 17th over), Allen carefully helping Phillips through to the breakthrough century — one that would go nicely with his three half centuries in his first McDonald’s Super Smash summer.
The special moment was chalked up with a two off Ryan McCone at the start of the 18th, a hundred that had flown from just 51 balls (8 x 4, 7 x 6).
The youthful Allen would fall to Rance in the penultimate over, but Ben Horne smacked a quick 26 off just seven balls to dominate the death, Phillips meanwhile finishing with the second highest score for the Aces in their T20 history — his 116 not out behind only Martin Guptill's 120 not out at Rangiora in 2011/12.
An extraordinary innings, in a bittersweet match.