Auckland Aces drew the match with the Otago Volts
Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland
22-25 February 2020
Bonus Points (completed): Auckland Aces 8 (maximum achieved), Otago Volts 4.
Having survived a close call just before the break, the Otago Volts headed into the final session with four wickets in hand, 196 runs in arrears and trying to stave off defeat, if not win the game with some epic tailend stories.
Unfortunately for the southerners, Lockie Ferguson found the shoulder of Michael Rippon's bat straight after the break to have another wicket down, and Volts campaigners Nathan Smith joined by captain Jacob Duffy facing an even taller order.
But Ferguson had a sniff, and caught Duffy on the hop soon after with the perfect line and length, Raval pouncing on the catch at gully.
After his first innings five-fa, spinner Louis Delport had also been in the wickets - ripping out three biggies in Neil Broom (before lunch), then first-innings centurion Nick Kelly and the classy Dean Foxcroft (39, the Volts' best score from another drips and drabs innings) in the middle session to raise hopes of a fairytale 10-for.
Skipper Robbie O'Donnell kept him in the attack after tea in tandem with his quick, just two more strikes now required as the Aces hunted for the maximum points that would keep them at the right end of the table.
One of just two active games left in the round, a similar situation was unfolding in Napier with the Stags hunting for ND's last wicket but meeting a determined resistance. Now Smith and Matt Bacon battened down at Eden Park, increasing their hosts' frustration.
The Aces spinners would be left frustrated indeed after the afternoon dogfight ended in a draw - the Volts' last pair, Smith and Michael Rae, surviving the final 12 overs to deny the Aces the spoils.
Neil Broom's 100th match for the Volts would not be a win, but neither would it be the loss.
The Otago Volts were in a spin after Delport’s day. In his third first-class season (after three matches in South Africa in 2014/15, followed by a solitary match on Aces debut last summer), 32-year-old left-arm spinner Louis Delport finally had his maiden five-wicket bag.
His 5-77 ensured the Auckland Aces grabbed a 186-run first innings lead after rolling the Otago Volts for 281 at Eden Park Outer Oval — he even upstaged a maiden first-class century from Nick Kelly who produced a fighting 118 with little support (Michael Rippon coming to Kelly’s aid down the order with an unbeaten 41*) to get his side a score.
Kelly's previous first-class best was an unbeaten 56* and he cherished three figures before falling victim to the spinner to confer the breakthrough five-fa.
Despite losing three big wickets in Guptill, Phillips and Chapman, by stumps the Aces' lead had grown to 352 with the Aces in the box seat and poised for a declaration on the fourth morning, with Jeet Raval unbeaten on 66* overnight.
Following suit from Martin Guptill's day-one ton, 23-year-old Glenn Phillips notched up first-class century number five as the Auckland Aces piled on the runs at Eden Park Outer Oval.
Phillips has the knack of making big scores seem effortless and brought up the three figures with a six off Jacob Duffy.
Even though he was out just four balls later, the Volts were made to continue running around in field after Aces captain Robbie O'Donnell (61 not out) and Ben Horne (67) put on 98 for the sixth wicket.
Phillips and Guptill's second-wicket stand had reached 99 while Phillips and Mark Chapman (52) hit 116 for the third.
The net result was a first dig declared at 467 for six, then in the last session the Aces knocked off the top four Volts wickets to compound a tough two days for the southerners who would resume day three in trouble at 59/4.
A Gup-ton at Eden Park Outer Oval on the first day of Plunket Shield for 2020 was just what the Aces had in mind.
Guptill headed in at stumps unbeaten on 105* having scored his eighth first-class century for his Domestic side late on a rain-truncated opening day.
Bringing up his century off just 137 balls at his home ground, the Aces would begin day two set up at 172 for one, after an unbroken 92-run stand between Guptill and Phillips (34*) took them to stumps.
Earlier, Guptill put on 80 for the first wicket with Raval after having been sent in by Otago Volts captain Duffy. Guptill's century is the 16th of his overall first-class career.