Aces Trumped in Key HRV Cup Clash

As Devon Hotel Central Stags captain Kieran Noema-Barnett waited, padded up, through the last 10 overs of his side's HRV Cup tussle with the Auckland Aces this afternoon, he might have considered it increasingly less likely that he would even be required.

At the crease were senior opening blade Mathew Sinclair and the inventive Ben Smith, steadily raising the tempo through the last five overs until the Stags were all but assured of a major victory over the defending champions.

Sinclair, punishing on the drive as ever, came as close as possible to carrying his bat before he was run out on the second ball of the last over - leaving Noema-Barnett to waltz in and strike the one remaining run required next ball for a sweet seven-wicket thumping.

Remarkably Sinclair was dismissed for 71, the third time in the HRV Cup this season that he had made that score and the second time that he's done so at sun-drenched Pukekura Park - following a match-winning third-wicket stand of 106 runs with Smith, whose unbeaten half-century was his highest knock of the competition and peppered with scoop shots against an increasingly frustrated Aces attack.

For the Stags it was another big day out at their happy hunting ground in Taranaki, while for the desperate Aces the loss takes their destiny out of their own hands. Lagging eight points behind the two third-placed teams, their best hope now of reaching the HRV Cup playoff is to ensure that they win their two remaining games at a good clip plus hope the SKYCITY Northern Knights, with their lowish net run rate, meanwhile lose both of their last two encounters.

Zimbabwean pro Kyle Jarvis had made life difficult early on for the Aces, returning 0-25 off his four overs and building the pressure that saw wickets tumble at the opposite end. The Aces' stuttering start had seen their top four batsmen back in the tent without having inflicted major damage - this after winning the toss.

But then a barnstorming Colin de Grandhomme hauled the Aces right back into the game, littering the ground with sixes as he smashed a 20-ball half-century and 71-run partnership, off just 36 balls, with Craig Cachopa - who would fall just one run short of a 50 of his own.

Donovan Grobbelaar continued the good work with a 42-run stand with Cachopa for the sixth wicket, and Kyle Mills slaughtered a six off the last ball. But the Aces had lost their way during the foundation of the innings and in the analysis it cost them the match.

The Stags, by contrast, kept wickets in hand, saw off the early challenges posed by Michael Bates and the twin efforts of Bhupinder Singh (backing up with an excellent 0-28) and Grobbelaar before cashing in on the return of the pace contingent - by now under rising pressure to get rid of two dangerously "set" batsmen.

They couldn't do it, handing the injury-hit Stags a welcome confidence boost as they look to close out their fruitless T20 season on a happier note.

Attention now turns to whether the Northern Knights can nail their Friday night clash at home in Hamilton against the Canterbury Wizards, and, earlier that afternoon, whether the HELL Wellington Firebirds can down competition leaders the Otago Volts in Wellington to secure their respective positions in the all-important top three.


With Thanks To

Sky Sport Pitch ANZ Ford Mediaworks
Accor Hotels CCC Dream11 Dynasty Gillette GJ Gardner Hertz Les Mills Monteiths Powerade TAB