Plunket Shield round four: Mondiale Auckland Aces 356 in 124.2 overs (Kitchen 41, O'Donnell 77, Brad Cachopa 104, Bates 31; Baker 6-75) and 209/8 declared in 68 overs (Raval 78, de Grandhomme 30, Brad Cachopa 33; Baker 4-53) drew with the SKYCITY Northern Knights 212 in 81.4 overs (Carter 33, Devcich 58; Watling 39, Santner 32; Grobbelaar 3-33, Bartlett 4-39) and 316/9 in 97 overs (Brownlie 54, Carter 56, Mitchell 84, Watling 71; Bates 4-78) at Colin Maiden Park, Auckland
With an hour left to play, the game was well and truly getting away on the Mondiale Auckland Aces. Captain Michael Bates must have been hoping against hope for a last flurry of wickets to bring the outright victory he’d had his eyes on when he declared the previous evening. He very nearly got his wish.
As the SKYCITY Northern Knights boldly attacked their last day chase of 354, they plummeted from a likely 301/4 to a perilous 316/9, in the space of seven overs - time and wickets suddenly running out to steal the win.
Tailenders Graeme Aldridge and Jimmy Baker were left at the crease to try to survive the last 1.3 overs, the Aces hunting for just one more false move.
Until the late crash, the day had represented a massive shift towards the Knights, and the stakes were high with a win by either side set to push them into the competition lead. At the start of the day, everything had been set up for hosts the Aces. The quick loss of Daniel Flynn for a three-ball duck — to his opposing skipper Bates — meant the hard-hitting Knights captain had barely troubled the scorers in the match, and at 130/3 with the required run rate rising, pundits assumed the middle order would consider digging in for a draw.
But the Knights bat deep and, moreover, they back each other to the hilt. Anton Devcich strode in with fierce intent, only to become the victim of surprise bowling option Jeet Raval. So Daryl Mitchell kicked in instead — and poured on a game-turning 141-run partnership with the ever competent BJ Watling.
Even a whirl of light rain wouldn’t spare the Aces. After the brief interruption, the Knights needed their last 100 runs off just over 16 overs — but still with six in hand. Mitchell and Watling marked their 100-run partnership just before drinks, when 94 remained, then posted the team’s 300 on the board with nine overs remaining to get 54. Bar Flynn’s early departure, it had been a good team effort and the Aces’ bowling attack was feeling the frustration as the Knights began regularly tapping the boundary.
Then cricket threw a curve ball. Mitchell was bowled on 84 by first-innings wicket-hunter Dean Bartlett, young Mitch Santner walking out to join Watling with the Knights needing just 53 from 50 balls. But 301/5 soon became 303/7 as Santner and Scott Kuggeleijn both made quick exits for no score. When the capable Ish Sodhi joined them soo after, three wickets had fallen for just two runs and the Knights suddenly had every reason to feel nervy.
Bates had accounted for two of them, Donovan Grobbelaar the other and now debutant Vishi Jeet - playing at his home club ground, the first University player to make the Aces in a decade - joined the wicket-taking party, grabbing the big wicket of Watling, who had got to 71.
There were 10 balls left in the day. The Knights were no longer in contention for the win, but they were certainly in contention for a defeat. Could the Aces take them out after all? When Jeet finished his successful over, Bates threw the ball to Jeet Raval — surely a wild card for the last over, but the skip was prepared to gamble on the unlikely.
After four solid days’ cricket, every person at the park was hanging on each delivery. Dot. Dot. Dot…. it finished as a bittersweet maiden, as the Knights got away with a draw by the skin of their teeth.
The Mondiale Auckland Aces did the business on “moving day” at Colin Maiden with opener Jeet Raval knuckling down for a dogged 78 off 177 deliveries. Raval’s determination at the top paved the way for his captain’s declaration at the end of the day, setting the SKYCITY Northern Knights a tough last day chase of 354.
Earlier, the Knights had resumed at 173/5, trailing by 183 runs. Clearly they needed to kick on to wrest control, but despite oceans of depth in their batting and BJ Watling grinding out a start with 39, they were sent to lunch disappointed to have been dismissed in the first session for a relatively meagre 212 after Dean Bartlett ripped into the late order with three good wickets.
The Aces took a 144-run lead into the second innings, but the Knights’ first innings hero Jimmy Baker soon started causing trouble for the Aces again, picking up quick wickets in Carl Cachopa and Colin Munro after Graeme Aldridge had removed Anaru Kitchen.
The Aces were on dangerous ground at 29/3, but Raval was determined and with the remainder of the order chipping in — including an 88-run stand for the seventh wicket with Brad Cachopa, it was enough to keep the Aces in control.
Seamer Baker’s second-innings account of 4-53 gave him a fine 10-128 for the match, his first 10-wicket bag and the first by any Northern Knights bowler since Aldridge in November 2009.
It was a good start to the day for the Knights who got the early wicket they wanted in Robbie O’Donnell — trapped by Aldridge for a career-best 77. Soon after Donovan Grobbelaar was sent back, too, the Aces pegged back to 272/7.
Brad Cachopa was not having a bar of it, however. The 26-year-old keeper knuckled down against the Knights’ spin attack to get within sight of a maiden first-class ton — with confident support from Michael Bates (31). Flynn was forced to bring back Aldridge and Baker as Cachopa moved into the 90s, and their steady pressure snared Bates’s wicket just before lunch, while Cachopa was on 92*.
Cachopa raised the bat after the break to hearty applause from his teammates, but just four runs later he was back amongst them as Jimmy Baker struck back for the Knights, claiming his maiden first-class five-for in the process, Cachopa caught by Joe Carter after nearly four defiant hours at the crease.
Now the Aces were 351/9, and Baker soon wrapped it up with the last wicket to end with a healthy haul of 6-75, the Aces all gone for 356.
The Knights’ reply was rocked early by the loss of captain Daniel Flynn, then a couple of quick wickets to Grobbelaar that set them back at 42/3 — Grobbelaar sitting on figures of 2-0 after claiming Dean Brownlie and Daryl Mitchell in quick succession.
Joe Carter and Anton Devcich put on 49 before Carter gave way, but Devcich carried on for a fifty off 88 balls before Grobbelaar accounted for him, too. Devcich’s stand ended on 58, almost straight after drinks in the last session — the score 124/5 and the Knights still trailing by 232 runs.
Despite starts, none of the Knights batsman had truly got going, but the day ended with no further catastrophes, BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner having fledged an unbeaten 49-run stand to take the Knights through to 173/5, a deficit of 183 at stumps.
After seeing off an early ground delay, two strong sides looked to sweep away bruised egos from the Ford Trophy, at a park with a history of memorable upsets between these northern neighbours.
The SKYCITY Northern Knights headed in as leader after the early Plunket Shield rounds, seamer Jimmy Baker and top order batsman Joe Carter rejoining the team after the end of white-ball cricket. The table-toppers decided on a bowl, Baker making the initial breakthrough when he removed Anaru Kitchen after a brisk 41.
Carl Cachopa was on 23 when the Aces’ other opener Jeet Raval fell to Graeme Aldridge, who with Scott Kuggeleijn and Baker had kept up a protracted seam attack in overcast conditions. Just five balls later, Kuggeleijn had Cachopa back in the hutch, lbw immediately after hitting him for four — the Aces had tripped from 91/1 to 95/3 in a matter of minutes.
By tea, the Knights had bagged another two, Baker sitting on 3-32 after accounting for both Colins, Munro and de Grandhomme, to have the Aces 161/5.
Robbie O’Donnell and Brad Cachopa then cautiously looked to see out the last session, with O’Donnell breaking out a six off Aldridge to bring up a 98-ball half-century. By stumps the 20-year-old number five had reached 75, the Aces heading home in better spirits after a steady recovery to 251/5.
The match is the Auckland and first-class debut of left-arm spinner Vishi Jeet, with regular Aces performers Tarun Nethula, Matt Quinn and captain Rob Nicol all unavailable through injury.
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