Auckland Aces v Canterbury at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland, 24-26 November 2017
First innings bowling bonus points: Canterbury 4 (maximum achieved), Auckland Aces 4 (maximum achieved)
First innings batting bonus points: Auckland Aces 0 (completed), Canterbury 1 (completed)
Points from this round: Auckland Aces 16, Canterbury 5
- Chad Bowes 50th first-class match
- Dan Sams best bowling in an innings, 4-55 in Auckland's first innings (previous best 3-48)
- Matt McEwan claimed his 100th first-class wicket when he dismissed Tim Johnston in Canterbury's first innings
- Michael Guptill-Bunce reached 2000 first-class runs when his score went to 14 in Auckland's second innings
- Glenn Phillips second first-class century
The resurgent Auckland Aces won by 24 runs to complete their third victory on the bounce, and hold on to third place on the points table as the Plunket Shield reached the midway mark for 2017/18.
However, whilst it was victory with more than a day to spare, there were also more than a few nerves in the home tent as the day wore on and Canterbury drew increasingly close to what had seemed, the evening before, a difficult enough target.
The decisive moment of the third and final day was a stinging caught and bowled from Danru Ferns, removing the capable Tim Johnston as the Aces desperately hunted the final four wickets in their way, now with only 33 runs to play with.
Canterbury had begun the day at 21/2 and Chad Bowes and Leo Carter both capitalised on their small starts the previous evening to rustle up a third-wicket stand of 85 runs, just the launching pad the visitors had hoped for in the morning conditions.
Carter went on to post his half century off 75 balls (8x4, 2x6) but was lost before lunch on 63, leaving Cole McConchie and Cam Fletcher to combine and press on from 164 for four at the break.
The pair kept the solid progress going, sharing the workload as their fifty-stand for the fifth wicket came up in just over an hour, Fletcher then reaching his own half ton.
Meanwhile, the multi-skilled Glenn Phillips had put in a rare bowling appearance, and would do more than make up the numbers as he walked off with 3-45 off his 14 overs — crucially stopping both Cole McConchie (42) and Fletcher, on 53.
Fletcher was providing some stubborn resistance but a bit of Ben Lister magic off Phillips’s bowling put an end to that.
Lister was fielding at mid-on with Fletcher looking to go over the top. Fletcher looked like he had cleared the fieldsman, but the tall left-armer rose high and plucked the ball one-handed out of the sky, much to the delight of his teammates.
Medium-pacer Michael Barry would take some tap, but had also chimed in with an important wicket in the form of Carter (63); and between Barry and Phillips they opened the door for Danru Ferns to do battle with the wagging tail.
Danny Sams was escalating the run rate for the Cantabs with his 33 before Ferns had him lbw, then Ferns pulled off his outstanding return catch to removed Johnston just a couple of overs down the track.
Andrew Ellis once again batted in the tail after having broken an index finger on his left hand, while attempting a caught and bowled. Ellis had only just recovered from a broken carpal bone on the same hand, yet was leading the way with the bat for his side with 19 runs in a last charge as the more genuine of his tailenders held on in support.
However, when Guptill-Bunce tossed Ben Lister the new ball, Ellis fell almost immediately as the Eden Park supporters let out a deep sigh of relief in what had turned into one tense little afternoon at the fortress.
A solid day with both bat and ball saw the Aces seemingly take control of the match heading into day three.
Ben Lister and Matt McEwan mopped up the Canterbury tail in quick time to leave the Aces facing a small deficit of 29 runs.
Captain Michael Guptill-Bunce scored a fluent 51 to get his side going, his dismissal with the score at 79/2 meaning the Aces needed their middle order to fire to get back into the game.
Robbie O’Donnell and Glenn Phillips came together and put on the much needed 146-run partnership, Phillips scoring a run-a-ball 104 to give the Aces the momentum they needed to wrest back control of the match.
O’Donnell and Phillips both fell in quick succession with the lead at 213, the Aces needing their lower order to kick on with Ben Horne ready to continue the good work of the top order.
The young man delivered in spades, scoring a run-a-ball 75 to put his side on top, finishing unbeaten as the Aces were all out for 345, leaving Canterbury with 316 to chase for a victory.
A tricky 11-over period awaited Canterbury’s openers and it took left-armer Ben Lister only two balls to get the breakthrough, getting the Aces off to the perfect start. Matt McEwan joined the party by dismissing Michael Pollard to leave Canterbury in trouble at 5/2.
Canterbury managed to make it to stumps without losing any further wickets, finishing the day 21/2 chasing 316 and hoping to deny the Aces their third straight win tomorrow.
Eighteen wickets clattered on an action-packed day one between the Auckland Aces and Canterbury — and a total of 375 runs were scored, the match well and truly poised ahead of day two.
Inserted on a green deck, it was a tough morning for the Aces’ batsman with the ball doing a bit off the surface.
The Canterbury bowlers had the better of the opening exchanges, reducing the home side to 66 for five with Australian import Dan Sams going on to collect a career best 4-55 in his third first-class appearance.
However, Mark Chapman (76 off 72) played with his usual swashbuckling style, going at a run a ball despite the conditions.
A couple of quick boundaries on the stroke of lunch brought up Chapman’s half century, the Aces heading to the break at 116 for six.
The boundaries continued to flow at the same rate as wickets after lunch, Raja Sandhu chipping in with a couple of big blows in a quickfire 22 off 17.
Eventually the Aces were bowled out for 181, many of the punters around Eden Park thinking it was around a par score as Sams claimed the last man and was joined in the wicket column by captain Andrew Ellis (3-50) and young Fraser Sheat with 2-44, Will Williams picking up the remaining wicket.
The fired-up Aucklanders came out to field and tight lines from the opening bowlers were rewarded with a wicket apiece to Sandhu and first change Danru Ferns.
At the tea break, Canterbury was 42/2, setting up an enticing final session at the Outer Oval.
Again, it was the Aces with the bit between their teeth in the final session, Ben Lister, Matt McEwan and Sean Solia all chipping in with a wicket in the hour after tea.
Supported by sharp fielding, the home side turned the screws further, McEwan and Solia doubling their wicket tallies before Glenn Phillips removed a dangerous-looking Daniel Sams – the only Canterbury batsman to pass the half century mark.
As the day drew to a close, Canterbury held a small, 13-run lead with two first innings wickets remaining, an intriguing first hour in store for day two.
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Reporting by Auckland Cricket Association