WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v AUCKLAND ACES
14-17 November 2020
Toss: Wellington Firebirds who bowled
First innings points: Firebirds 7, Aces 3
Total points this round: Firebirds 7, Aces 3
Devon Conway 18th first-class century, fifth for Wellington Firebirds
Michael Bracewell 8th first-class century, first for Wellington Firebirds
Kyle Jamieson fourth first-class bag in four matches
Graeme Beghin 2nd first-class century
The Auckland Aces headed into the last two sessions of Plunket Shield cricket for 2020 leading by 44 runs, with seven wickets and, in theory, a dilemma. Last day, Firebirds still to bat again after their colossal first innings ... could they contemplate a game declaration? Would the match devolve into a one-day style run chase, or just peter out for no further reward on the table?
Earlier, opening batsman Graeme Beghin had provided the Aces with their morning session highlight by reaching just his second first-class century.
HUNDRED | Beghin hits back-to-back sixes to go to his second First Class 💯— Auckland Cricket (@aucklandcricket) November 16, 2020
What a knock. Soak it in, Begs!
LIVE SCORECARD | ACES 279 and 185/2 | Firebirds 446 | https://t.co/PAafB80mQ2#PlunketShield #FollowSuit ⚪️🔵 pic.twitter.com/ojOnDzitW7
His 108 included 13 boundaries and three sixes before he offered a sharp return catch to the occasional spinner Michael Bracewell who almost nonchalantly plucked the ball one-handed from the sky.
Grab! 😮— Cricket Wellington (@cricketwgtninc) November 16, 2020
Beghin and Chapman's partnership is finally broken, as Beghin falls for a very good 108.
LIVE SCORING | ACES 279 & 193/3 | WEL 446 | https://t.co/zKgdlR66YJ#WEAREWELLINGTON #PlunketShield pic.twitter.com/vdok5amNcM
Unbeaten on 60*, Mark Chapman had a powerful ally in Martin Guptill at the crease ready to look for headway after lunch. But Chapman would not add to his score, and Guptill would have to be content with a time in the middle for 29 before paceman Michael Snedden accounted for them both.
Aces captain Robbie O'Donnell and Ben Horne then put on an unbroken 60* for the sixth wicket, taking the visitors to a 130-run lead by tea. By then both captains had decided the match was going nowhere fast, shook hands and settled for a draw.
The Aces would head into the back half of summer sitting in second spot, or third if ND beat the Stags in the battle still being fought in Nelson.
After having batted almost all of the previous day together, the two Firebirds rocks of the innings fell with 15 balls of each other on the third morning.
Michael Bracewell's first Plunket Shield century for Wellington finally ended on 142 (16 boundaries, three sixes) when Sean Solia had him caught behind.
It ended his marathon stint with Devon Conway at 287, and Conway was next to depart after reaching 157 (18 boundaries, three sixes) when he was caught off the hard-working spinner Will Somerville.
The Auckland Aces picked up a further three wickets in the session to have the Firebirds 379/7 at lunch, a lead of exactly 100 to the Wellington hosts.
Kyle Jamieson had once again done the damage, picking up a quick brace to sit on the cusp of another five-wicket bag for the big man.
By tea the Aces were into their second innings, having dismissed the Firebirds for 446.
Jamieson (5-85) had nailed it yet again with another five-wicket bag: his fourth in the space of four first-class matches, a remarkable sequence beginning with last summer's BLACKCAPS haul against India.
Peter Younghusband's 41 had added a layer onto the Firebirds tally, but the rest of the lower order finally gave the Aces attack some rewards for their sweat and labour with Ferns and Somerville each ending up with a couple of wickets each.
The Aces then lost Solia early in the 14 overs before tea, and went to the break still needing to knock off a further 151 runs to catch the Firebirds' big first innings statement.
By stumps a growing third-wicket stand between Graeme Beghin (55*) and Mark Chapman (29*) had whittled it down to 58, the pair to resume on 109/2 iand needing another big push in the morning to set up any open possibilities on the last day.
If Kyle Jamieson had known what would come next, he might have savoured removing Rachin Ravindra in the eighth over of the new day all that little bit more.
Ravindra was caught by Mark Chapman at 51/2, Jamieson having taken care of both the openers now, but from there it would be a very long time before any further Wellington wickets materialised on the scoreboard.
None tumbled in the middle session, nor the last, and with just a dozen overs or so left in the day, captain Michael Bracewell raised his bat for his hundred. It was the eighth of his career, but personally resonant as his first for his team since leaving the Volts.
The machine Devon Conway (below) had already got his before tea, and was now closing in on the 150-mark.
Together they had just pushed their side into the lead, and now they were about to break Grant Elliott and Neil Parlane's third-wicket record of 246 for first-class matches between these two storied sides.
The runs were streaming like the late afternoon sun streaks - Bracewell had just pulled Danru Ferns for his second six and his third saw him do the honours as they went past the old mark - reaching their 250-run partnership off 517 ball with the same swat.
This 6 (his 3rd) by Michael Bracewell not only brought up the 250-stand with Devon Conway for the 3rd wicket, it also broke Neal Parlane & Grant Elliott's record for the wicket for all first-class matches between @aucklandcricket & @cricketwgtninc #PlunketShield pic.twitter.com/wLexjPLbSF— #NZIII (@MargotButcher) November 15, 2020
Devon Conway has now reached 2000 runs in his four seasons of first-class cricket in NZ. 21 games, average 71. One triple, one double and three other hundreds #plunketshield— Francis Payne (@FPayne100) November 15, 2020
At stumps, the Firebirds were sitting pretty at 312/2, Conway left needing just one more single for his 150 and Bracewell unbeaten on 123*.
Their stand would resume at 261*, the lead now 33, with eight still in hand. You can't beat Wellington on a good day, as the saying goes.
The Auckland Aces headed into the halfway mark of the championship sitting second on the table, with a chance of going top. Would the Firebirds oblige - or finally get to break their egg at home?
Sent in by home captain Michael Bracewell, the Aces didn't make the best of starts: 3/2 after Iain McPeake and Ollie Newton each zeroed in on the openers.
However, a 99-run stand between Mark Chapman and Glenn Phillips (below) steadied the ship for the visitors.
Phillips produced a brisk half century - his 54 coming off just 60 balls, but would fall inside the session when Michael Snedden skimmed one past his defensive prod to have him caught behind at 102/3.
Martin Guptill would be gone by lunchtime too, after trying to establish himself for half an hour, but after the break a further two half centuries would make doubly sure the Aces had something to play with in their first innings.
Chapman had reached 64 by lunch and was drawing ever closer to a ton in the middle session before Jamie Gibson did him with length. Chapman trudged back, caught on 95 after three hours of work.
By then the visitors were six down, but the batting kept coming - Ben Horne (57) and Kyle Jamieson (51) both putting in useful late order stints for a half century each.
The pair put on 85 for the seventh wicket, before Iain McPeake (4-53) made three late strikes to stop the innings in a hurry at 279.
By stumps, the Firebirds were 27/1 in reply with Tom Blundell back in the pavilion early after the challenging Jamieson made the breakthrough.