Plunket Shield round nine, 21-24 March 2017 at University of Otago Oval, Dunedin
Six Volts wickets in the morning session for just 87 runs had the Aces sniffing victory already. It had been carnage for the hosts, who lost five of their top six for single-figure scores, and the other — the important wicket of captain and rock Brad Wilson — cost only 14 hard-fought runs before Lockie Ferguson had him caught behind.
After his first-innings five-for, Ferguson had zeroed in on both openers but it was rookie Raja Sandhu who continued to stand up and be counted with both bat and ball in the match.
Sandhu put himself on an unconverted hat-trick with the wickets of Nathan Smith and Derek de Boorder to have the Volts 50 for five, then added Sean Eathorne and Sam Wells in his next couple of overs: the second time he had taken four wickets in an innings in his three appearances to date.
It was a devastating spell that left Anaru Kitchen facing humiliation against his old team, yet he would smash a run-a-ball half century to breathe a faint huff of hope back into the southerners' hearts.
He combined with Christi Viljoen for an eighth-wicket stand that had almost reached three figures when Colin Munro broke through to have Viljoen caught on 36, the Volts 221 for seven.
By the time the Volts were nine down, their lead was still fragile at 151. But Kitchen wasn't done, embarking on a six-smashing spree to post his ninth first-class century off just 98 balls. Then he pelted Raja Sandhu for six again the very next ball to take the Volts to 200, the lead now 183.
It was the fifth time Kitchen had gone over the rope, Lockie Ferguson fuming as he was tossed the ball at the other end. Kitchen had put on a quick 50 with Michael Rae for the 10th wicket but there it ended, Ferguson caught behind next ball on 108. He walked off to home crowd applause as tea was called, but the Aces now needed just 184 runs for the outright they needed to keep the heat on Canterbury in the 2017 Plunket Shield title race.
The Aces openers made a confident start to the chase, putting on 61 for the first wicket before Christi Viljoen and Michael Rae combined to dismiss both Michael Guptill-Bunce (48) and Robbie O'Donnell (34).
By drinks in the last session, captain Rob Nicol and Glenn Phillips had got the chase down to double figures and put the foot down, each sending the ball over the rope. Nothing, seemingly, could stop them now, both cracking along at run-a-ball pace.
There would be no let up, Phillips reaching his half century off just 40 balls as the pair smashed their way to victory with a day to spare. The defending champion Aces had taken 19 out of the possible 20 available points from the round to keep their Plunket Shield hopes alive.
Their eyes would now turn to Nelson, where top of the table Canterbury was looking for its own outright against the Stags. The Aces will head to Napier next week, where they will once again end their Plunket Shield season at McLean Park, their title defence dependent on the outcome at Saxton Oval tomorrow.
First innings bowling bonus points, Aces 4 (maximum achieved), Volts 4 (maximum achieved)
First innings batting bonus points, Volts 2 (completed), Aces 3 (completed)
This fast-moving match saw BLACKCAPS quick Lockie Ferguson collect his sixth first-class five-wicket bag this morning (5-53) and, by the end of the day, he had a further wicket, having made the opening breakthrough in the Volts’ second turn at bat.
In between, yet another Colin Munro century off just 80 balls (9 x 4, 6 x 6) provided a much needed boost for the Aces’ first innings.
Munro was dismissed on 102, however, from 225 for eight, number 10 batsman Raja Sandhu and Mitch McClenaghan, batting at nine, again combined in a solid wag of the tail, backing up their record 139-run stand in Auckland by putting on 73 for the 10th wicket this afternoon in Dunedin.
The pair was eventually dismissed in quick succession to leave the Aces all out for 304, a first-innings lead of 22 and Michael Rae picking up a career-best 4-82.
At stumps, the Volts were six for one, trailing by 298 in the second innings
The Auckland Aces’ bowling attack hit their mark on day one to keep the heat on both competition leaders Canterbury and their imminent opponents the Otago Volts as the race for the Plunket Shield got serious.
By stumps, the second-placed Aucklanders (who can not afford to let Canterbury get away on them on the table) had three important bowling points in the bag. Captain Rob Nicol had done his bit, too, by winning the toss, the Volts losing wickets regularly until Derek de Boorder stepped in at five in the middle session to settle things down with a typically nuggety half century.
The fiery duo of Lockie Ferguson and Colin Munro had been the pair doing the damage at the top, Gregor Croudis reaching a hopeful 31 after having batted through the opening session on first-class debut, before Munro cleverly lured him into a caught behind after lunch.
Rarely sighted, until recently, at the opposite end of the crease, white ball keeper-batsman Glenn Phillips would pick up his maiden first-class wicket when he broke through in the last session and got de Boorder caught for no further addition to his 50. Inevitably Tarun Nethula was already in the wicket-taking column as the Aces snared their second bowling point at 162 for five.
Anaru Kitchen had been Nethula’s second victim, and had been threatening to help de Boorder lead a Volts recovery with his 36.
When bad light stopped play, however, at 266 for seven it was Sam Wells with that mission, the rearguard soldier unbeaten on 46 and joined by the young Nathan Smith, who had certainly proved a competent accomplice for Wells just a couple of rounds earlier at Westpac Stadium.