A big innings from returning BLACKCAP Corey Anderson was outdone by some fantastic death bowling as the unbeaten Mondiale Auckland Aces took down the SKYCITY Northern Knights by 11 runs in a thrilling round two clash.
With a predicted rain forecast holding off, the crowd was treated to an excellent showing at Hamilton’s Seddon Park, the game going down to the final over.
The visiting Aces prevailed when it counted, however, with excellent death bowling and execution from Donovan Grobbelaar and Lockie Ferguson halting what had looked to be a promising chase from the Knights.
The Aces had set them 279 to win, thanks to excellent efforts from Brad Cachopa and Robbie O’Donnell. Their combination was required after the visitors had struggled out of the gate.
Impressive young opener Glenn Phillips was out early, while the dangerous duo of Jeet Raval and Colin Munro both got quick starts before perishing – Raval for 24 and Munro for 25.
When Colin De Grandhomme fell making the score at 109/4, the Knights looked to have made significant inroads into the Aces’ batting lineup.
However, the two last recognised batsmen kept their attack at bay and, with the Aces top order having gone at a quick pace, Cachopa and O’Donnell had time to settle down before accelerating.
The pair put on 130 for the fifth wicket, guiding the Aces through to 239 before both perished to catches in the deep while trying to raise the run rate.
Cachopa (93) fell just short of a century while O’Donnell more than doubled his previous career-best score with 78 – both players smashing two sixes in their innings.
The pair having departed, Jimmy Baker halted what, for a stage, had looked like an innings which could reach 300 by dismissing Shawn Hicks and Grobbelaar cheaply. But some late boundaries from Ferguson and Tarun Nethula proved to be crucial as the Aces reached 278/8 at the close of their innings. Jono Boult was the pick of the bowlers with 2-47, while Baker claimed a career-best 3-63.
With specks of rain falling during the interval, the Knights got off to a poor reply in the clash, Dean Brownlie falling for a duck, trapped lbw by the impressive Matt Quinn – who after his first 6.4 overs had to leave the game with an injury, having conceded just 17 runs.
Daryl Mitchell and Daniel Flynn looked to consolidate, starting slowly. Flynn quickly upped the tempo, however, making his second consecutive fifty.
Mitchell wasn’t so sprightly, a patchy stay at the crease ended when he was run out, stumbling when being sent back and failing to make his ground – out for 29 from 55 balls.
Flynn continued his aggression, but fell soon after for 65 from 56 balls, having looked to sweep Nethula from outside off stump only to get an inside edge off the bottom of the bat.
The loss of the skipper saw the Knights sitting at 111/3, leaving Corey Anderson with a task on his hands – a task he handled admirably.
The big allrounder had the same day been named in the BLACKCAPS' Twenty20 team to take on Sri Lanka, and celebrated by making 88 from 87 balls, starting slowly but showing his trademark aggression and timing throughout the knock.
He didn’t initially receive the support Knights coach James Pamment would have been hoping to see, Anton Devcich managing 11, and BJ Watling departing for 21.
However, up-and-coming wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert proved a capable foil as the Knights went after 70 from the last 10 overs.
With Quinn unavailable to bowl the death overs, Aces captain Munro turned to Ferguson and Grobbelaar, who performed their duties with aplomb. Ferguson trapped Anderson lbw to claim the key scalp, before Seifert was run out and Scott Kuggeleijn fell to a heave looking to find the boundary rope.
That left Brett Hampton and Jono Boult with the unenviable task of finding 20 runs from nine balls and they couldn’t manage it, falling 11 runs short and giving the Aces a well-earned victory.
Round three of the Ford Trophy is at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval (Canterbury v Firebirds), New Plymouth's Pukekura Park (Stags v Volts) and Auckland’s Eden Park Outer Oval (Aces v Knights) at 11am this Sunday, 3 January 2016.