On an afternoon when temperatures pushed 30 degrees at a humid Colin Maiden Park, somebody was always going to have a bad day at the office.
For a short while, it looked like it might be the Central Stags, who found themselves doing it tough at 80 for four after having won the toss and batted, Sean Solia (who ultimately claimed a career best 4-46) having just swooped in for two wickets to put himself on a hat-trick — crucially removing George Worker and then collecting the added bonus of Dane Cleaver — at the end of the 17th over.
The Stags had already lost opener Ben Smith and Jesse Ryder, the maiden wickets for Aces pace debutant Jamie Brown.
The fresh, tall combo of Brown and left-armer Ben Lister, himself in his first season, steaming in was an exciting sight for Aces supporters, but it was always going to be the kind of day when bowling and fielding was tiring work.
Not that batting under a sweat-soaked helmet was much more pleasant in the sweltering heat, but Stags captain Will Young and the big, strong 21-year-old Josh Clarkson were about to put up with the discomfort.
From 80 for four, it was a long wait for the Aces before they claimed another wicket as the front-running Stags set about erasing their Burger King Super Smash Grand Final disappointment.
Young and Clarkson would smash the Stags’ all-time fifth-wicket record in List A cricket, shattering a mark that had stood since the early 1990s.
The pair poured on 211 runs to dig their team out of trouble, breaking the mark of 153* that had been set by Tony Blain and Richard Harden against Canterbury at Lancaster Park in 1990/91, and challenging for the national domestic List A record to boot.
They didn’t quite knock that one off, but by then there was plenty to relish with both batsmen having sweated their way to a century.
Clarkson was the first to reach three figures and his maiden List A Ford Trophy ton was greeted by loud applause from his teammates, partly on account of it being a breakthrough first ton but surely also because of the manner in which it had been scored.
Tagged as a heavy pinch-hitter with long levers, Clarkson (below) delivered a beautifully paced innings that gathered steam as the three figures came into his sights at the death.
Young had been the first to move into the 90s, but Clarkson swiftly overtook him for a 93-ball maiden ton (six boundaries, four sixes) in which his second fifty had flown off just 23 balls.
Young’s own century, his third in this format, was a run-a-ball effort but by then he had been joined at the crease by Adam Milne, Clarkson caught in the deep in the 49th over.
Young, too, would be caught, but with just one delivery remaining in the innings and the Stags having produced a solid recovery to reach 299 for seven in their 50 overs.
The target was always going to be steep for the hosts but it was made steeper when they lost Jeet Raval first over, Milne wasting no time in his long awaited return to the bowling crease.
BLACKCAPS Seth Rance (Stags) and Glenn Phillips (Aces) were both back for their respective sides, setting up a fascinating duel as Phillips found himself in the action early.
Partnering him for the second wicket was another Aces debutant in this round, opener Graeme Beghin, who produced a boundary and a six before Bevan Small stopped him short on 16.
Phillips (43) ploughed on, and was drawing near a half century when his wicket set off an unfortunate chain reaction in the Aces’ line-up as they lost Mark Chapman, Sean Solia and Craig Cachopa in quick succession.
The afternoon cooled slightly as the Stags bowled, and the Aces no doubt looked to the thunderstorm on the horizon wondering if the DLS would come into play. They were well behind, meanwhile Young utilised seven bowlers in his attack and all seven of them were successful.
It was Clarkson’s day all round as he made his first appearance at the domestic bowling crease since a back injury in the 2015/16 season, and almost immediately claimed the wicket of Donovan Grobbelaar — only the second wicket of the former NZ Under-19 player's List A career.
Despite a brave 30 from Aces tailender Lister, dismissing the Aucklanders for 176 in 40.3 overs wrapped up a serious 123-run win for the Stags, the seventh biggest winning margin (by runs) in their List A history.
The Stags now head to Palmerston North this Wednesday for their sole home match at Fitzherbert Park, against Canterbury; while the Aces travel north to Whangarei where they will be hosted by Northern Districts, a side also coming off a meaty win.