Aces qualify after Will O'Donnell brings them home

ROUND 10 of 10

AUCKLAND ACES defeated CENTRAL STAGS by 5 wickets


18 February 2024

Kennards Hire Community Oval

Points: Auckland Aces 4, Central Stags 0



Brad Schmulian - second List A century and career best score (107)


In a hard-fought match at the outer oval, Central Stag Brad Schmulian celebrated his second one day ton in the space of three games - both against the Aces. But after a couple of injuries to the Stags' attack, the O'Donnell brothers got their home side back in the contest in a well-paced chase.

The day began with both teams still in contention for The Ford Trophy finals - albeit defending champion the Central Stags needed the perfect game, with a bonus point, and would still need other results to fall their way.

Brad Schmulian had scored his maiden Ford Trophy ton just two games earlier, against the Aces in Napier and, after Auckland captain Robbie O'Donnell won the toss, he put Schmulian and his mates in, hoping for the opposite result this time around at home.

The Aces had their big guns back - Martin Guptill and Finn Allen, Lockie Ferguson as well as Mark Chapman all potent players, while the Stags were still missing regular captain Tom Bruce who was playing overseas, with Dane Cleaver continuing to shoulder the captaincy duties.

Quick Ferguson would come onto the park for the Aces only at the halfway mark of the first innings, with agreement pre-arranged that he would bowl only six overs, in short spells, as he looked to get back into match-fit form ahead of the BLACKCAPS' games against Australia this week.

Schmulian opened the batting with Curtis Heaphy, and they made the most of it - the sun shining on a sweltering morning as they put on 114 for the first wicket in 21 overs. The Aces meanwhile let themselves down in the field with missed chances.

Heaphy, in his first season of Ford Trophy cricket, was in sight of his fourth half century before Robbie O'Donnell, bowling spin in this game, came on in the 21st over as a golden arm, getting Heaphy caught and bowled on 44 at the end of his first over.

Bowling in tandem with his brother Will O'Donnell, the brothers O'Donnell soon struck again with Will continuing Cleaver's miserable run - caught by a swooping Marty Guptill for just five.

Ferguson came on in the 26th over when the Stags were nevertheless well set at 130/2, and Schmulian looking for another partnership. Josh Clarkson soon fell victim to a sharp Ferguson, however, then Doug Bracewell became a quick wicket for Ben Lister. Suddenly, the Stags were under pressure at 146/4.

Will Clark (44) gave Schmulian the support he needed to get to his second ton - celebrated in joyous style, with his Auckland-based family watching on.

Schmulian had motored through his first fifty runs at a run-a-ball pace, and now had his ton off just 104 balls, with 13 boundaries and a six.

He made it through to the 39th over of the game before becoming the fifth wicket, caught off Louis Delport at 191/5.

The Aces then attacked the lower order and ended up bowling out the Stags for 243 with just two balls to go in the first innings, Lister finished with 3/36.

The all-important chase got off to a rocky start, Finn Allen left cursing himself after going for a first-ball duck against Blair Tickner (3/45).

Guptill fell cheaply too, snicking behind off Tickner at 11/2.

But bad luck was about to beset the Stags, who lost both Bracewell and Clarkson from their attack early doors, with niggles.

Key man Bracewell would bowl only three overs at the top (for 0/4), while change bowler Clarkson also could provide only three overs.

It left the rest of the Stags attack shouldering a big load, and plenty of pressure on captain Cleaver to rearrange plans - but they made a good fist of it, pushing the Aces deep, and putting on a fierce show in the field - Will Clark with an outstanding outfield catch to remove Fletcher.

Will Clark | MBUTCHER

Ray Toole (0/41 off 10) bowled well without reward, meanwhile the Aces got a partnership going between Chapman (32) and Robbie O'Donnell (51).

They put on 52 for the third wicket, then O'Donnell added a further 70 with his big younger brother before Jayden Lennox got a big breakthrough at 133/4.

Will O'Donnell was well set, and took over the chase, with help from Cam Fletcher (32) as the Stags turned to their three spinners, Ajaz Patel, Jayden Lennox and Schmulian, to try to close out a tight chase.

Will O'Donnell | MBUTCHER

Lennox removed Fletcher in the 47th, leaving O'Donnell and Delport with 26 runs to find off 24 balls.

Between them they took two sixes off Toole in the 48th, easing the pressure, but also putting a century for Will O'Donnell beyond reach.

Now just eight were needed from 12 balls, but one last six from Delport finished it off with an over to spare as the Aucklanders rejoiced.

O'Donnell walked in unbeaten after a great knock of 90* off 95 balls.


They would be flying to Dunedin to play Wednesday's Elimination Final against the Volts, with the winner to meet Canterbury - and the Aces a chance of becoming double champions this summer, if they could pull that off as well.






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