Plunket Shield round five: Canterbury 268 (Hira 64, Broom 38, Ellis 53, Astle 40; Nethula 4-68) and 266 all out in 91 overs (Fulton 41, Astle 35, Johnston 30, Henry 48 not out; Nethula 4-67, Bartlett 3-37, Bates 3-46) lost to Mondiale Auckland Aces 491 in 158.3 overs (Raval 126, O'Donnell 94, Grobbelaar 99, Bates 60; Ellis 3-94, Astle 4-97) and 44/0 in 8 overs by 10 wickets at Mainpower Oval, Rangiora
After outclassing their quarry with the bat, the Mondiale Auckland Aces' bowling attack moved in for the kill early on day four, Canterbury permitted to add only 112 runs after Michael Bates closed out proceedings with his third wicket — leaving his Auckland openers a gentle chase of 44 for a table-topping win.
Late order tyro Matt Henry put up some resistance, at least, with an unbeaten 48, while Tim Johnston chimed in with 30 in Canterbury's total of 266. But the damage had been done on the preceeding days and now the Aces needed just eight overs to seal a significant victory, without any loss.
The win saw the visitors usurp Canterbury at the top of the table, Canterbury now suddenly demoted to third.
On the bright side, Donovan Grobbelaar made his highest first-class score — previous best 62*, and helped truck his team into a commanding position on "moving day" at Rangiora. As for getting out one run shy of your maiden century, chances are he'll say you can keep that bit.
He'd done the hard yards helping the visitors take a 223-run lead on the first innings, the ninth wicket to fall after a patient innings of 232 balls. Bowled by Todd Astle, it left the Aces 487/9 at the time, already firmly in charge, with a 219-run lead at his painful fall.
Captain Michael Bates (60 off 64, just nine runs short of his career best) had backed him up forcefully in the late order, the Aces charging on despite earlier losing Tarun Nethula, caught for no score, and Andy Ellis having made an early breakthrough by nabbing Brad Cachopa caught behind for just 11.
Canterbury then got off to the worst possible start in their second dig, losing aggressor Ronnie Hira for a duck first ball of the innings as Bates celebrated his first wicket. By stumps, Canterbury were once again depending on the experience of Astle as he headed into the changing sheds unbeaten on 31 overnight, his team already seven down after Nethula and Dean Bartlett mercilessly ripped through the Canterbury line-up.
They'd been reduced to 100/6 when Bartlett got rid of the tough Ellis, young Freddie Anderson combining in a late 54-run partnership with Astle before being claimed in the last over, Canterbury 154/7 at stumps.
With centuries being scored all around the country, the Aces almost made it two in one day after opener Jeet Raval let the rest of the order build around him while he knuckled down for his ninth first-class career century.
His century came off 190 balls and included 13 boundaries, but while there were celebrations for the emotional Raval, there was pain for young up-and-comer Robbie O'Donnell, who spent four hours patiently climbing to his highest first-class score and was on track for a maiden century until Andy Ellis winkled out a catch when we was on 94.
Donovan Grobbelaar then rubbed it in with an unbeaten half-century just before stumps, the Aces taking a 90-run lead over the table leaders into the third day, with five still in hand.
A positive start from opener Ronnie Hira — who raced to a half-century at nearly run-a-ball pace — may have initially tricked punters into thinking it had been competition leaders Canterbury, rather than the Mondiale Auckland Aces, who had won the toss. But by the end of the innings the boisterous start had been well tamed as Tarun Nethula and Lockie Ferguson ensured the hosts were all out for a middling 268
Leggie Nethula had got the dangerous wicket of Hira on 68 — from 64 balls. Later, he zeroed in at the end for a strong four-wicket haul. Canterbury had meanwhile stumbled to 132/5, before usual suspects Andy Ellis and Todd Astle steadied their innings with a stand of 92 for the sixth wicket.
Then the rot set in again, the final five wickets tumbling for just 44 runs as Nethula got his arm whirring. At stumps, however, Canterbury had quickly struck back, Anaru Kitchen and Carl Cachopa already back in the sheds to set up a pivotal morning on day two. The Aces went into this round just one point behind Canterbury.
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