In a head-to-head shootout between two of the quickest bowlers and four of the most fearsome opening batsmen on the scene, ultimately it was a career best half ton from Aces number five Robbie O’Donnell that got the Aucks across the line in their boundary-littered Burger King Super Smash season opener at Outer Oval.
Classy O’Donnell smashed his unbeaten 54 off 36 balls, seven fours and two bombs - one of 12 in all in the match - keeping the tempo of the match high as the hosts cantered towards a first-up five-wicket win with more than an over to spare, to the big delight of the crowd gathered all around the ground.
More to the point, O’Donnell kept his head as he and Ben Horne (31 off 24) bashed out a 74-run stand after the potent Central Stags attack had barged back into the game with four wickets in three overs — and three of them in just four balls, Glenn Phillips, Craig Cachopa and Mark Chapman all departing with the team score stalled on 91 as the Aces chased 193 for victory, and spinner Tom Bruce grabbing a wicket with his first ball.
The problem for the Stags was that wickets still weren’t happening quickly enough for their liking after the Aces had got off to an even faster start than the Stags themselves had after captain Will Young won the toss and batted on a nice wan-coloured belter.
The rock star combo of Jesse Ryder and George Worker got the Stags off to a flier by blasting a 70-stand inside seven overs, Worker hitting the ball crisp and clean and relishing the juicy pace before he was stumped on 40 — off just 16 balls — for a strike rate of a mere 250.00!
Big drawcard Ryder continued his storybook form this summer and top-scored for his side with his first half ton in the green shirt — to go with 22 other T20 career fifties and his century for Essex.
When he fell in the 11th over (like Worker, claimed by spinning guru Tarun Nethula) the Stags had the kind of big-name power line-up to keep it on the boil. But despite a string of starts at high strike rates as the short boundaries beckoned — nobody in the Stags side operating below run-a-ball, the Aces’ attack crucially slowed them down just enough through the back half.
Debutant Teja Nidamanuru recovered from a first over from hell against Ryder and Worker in full flight to help chill the run-scoring, one of two players on Aces debut together with English import Sam Curran who picked up a big wicket in Doug Bracewell.
Aces master blaster Colin Munro marched out in his 150th T20 looking to put a quick dent in the chase, and probably a few cars, and maybe the roof of the service station across the road, where he put the ball at least once. Half a dozen boundaries, three bombs later he was on the cusp of a super-quick 50 that already had the Aces ahead of the required run rate when Adam Milne managed to stop the assault by luring him into chasing a wide one, Dane Cleaver reaching for the catch in what would become a New Zealand record-equalling four snares in the innings for the Stags keeper — a superb one-handed leap to dismiss Ben Horne off Ben Wheeler capping it off.
Phillips was almost a Munro clone with his super-quick 36 off 15, but from a fast 91 for two in the seventh over, that was when the wickets kicked in and the Stags had a chance, if only they could hunt a few more poles quickly.
Full of big-hitting stars, plus the two quickest bowlers in the land and played mostly at a furious pace, the first match of the new Burger King Super Smash was a gripping and fitting way to launch the season. The Aces grab the early lead on the table before the Kings and Volts lock horns in a southern derby at Hagley Oval as round one continues this Thursday.
Schedule and tickets
- 150th Twenty20 match for Colin Munro
- T20 debut for Ben Lister and Teja Nidamanuru
- Auckland Aces debut for Sam Curran
- Highest T20 score by Jesse Ryder for the Central Stags (previously 25)
- Doug Bracewell reached 500 T20 runs when he passed 7
- Record 1st wicket partnership in T20s for the Auckland Aces v Central Stags (80 by Munro/Phillips - previously 64 by Paul Hitchcock/Marty Guptill in Auckland 2006/07)
- Record 5th wicket partnership in T20 for Auckland Aces v Central Stags (74 by O'Donnell/Horne - previously 71 by Colin de Grandhomme/Craig Cachopa in New Plymouth, 2012/13)
- Highest T20 score by Robbie O'Donnell (previously 51*)
- Four catches in an innings by Dane Cleaver equals the New Zealand record in a T20 match held by Derek de Boorder (Otago Volts) and Gareth Hopkins (Aces)