AUCKLAND ACES beat CENTRAL STAGS by 93 runs
21 February 2021
Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland
- Ross Taylor: 300th List A match
- Andy Morrison: List A debut (Auckland Aces)
New Auckland Aces opening batsman Cole Briggs is averaging 100 in The Ford Trophy after a near-perfect start to his career. But he was left kicking himself at Eden Park Outer Oval after incredibly falling just one run short of becoming the first player in New Zealand cricket history to score centuries in his first two List A innings.
After his maiden 101 against the Central Stags in a record double-century opening stand on Friday, Briggs, from East Coast Bays, backed up with 99 in a century stand on Sunday and then a 130-stand with Will O'Donnell for the second wicket.
Another superb knock for his side, but this time one that ended when he was stumped off Josh Clarkson - shortly after having had his nerves rattled in the previous over when a difficult chance was dropped by George Worker off Ajaz Patel while he was on 98*.
Briggs and his teammates would be all smiles by the end of the day, however, after back-to-back wins against a strong but somewhat erratic Stags side. It saw the defending champions haul themselves up from second-to-last to third on the points table, while the Stags became the first side to drop out of contention with just one win from eight rounds.
Aces captain Robbie O'Donnell had won the toss and batted, and his top order got off to another solid start - Sean Solia (57) and Briggs reaching 106 inside 17 overs before Christian Leopard shattered the stand with a brilliant catch down by the "Guptill sightscreen": running, leaping, flying and plucking the catch out of thin air one-handed, just as Guptill had done before him this summer to wide acclaim.
This time there were no commentators and hardly anyone to see it, with the ground closed to spectators due to Level 2 COVID-19 protocols.
But the Stags' bad day at the office had already started by then, strike bowler Blair Tickner having re-split the glued webbing in his finger after just one over, and taking no further part in the match. The Aces were ostensibly down a regular player too, keeper-batsman Ben Horne substituted pre-game by debutant Andy Morrison while Horne awaited a COVID-19 test result, as per the protocol.
Morrison was down to bat at six and had the luxury of watching his new teammates put on 273/4 before he had to wander out to the middle, only to be run out in a horrible mix-up with Will O'Donnell.
Brother Robbie had just departed after a short stay but the younger O'Donnell went on to 81, his sixth half century this summer.
The Aces were plastering sixes again to all parts as Stags captain Tom Bruce did his best to re-jig his attack.
Spinners Ajaz Patel and Jayden Lennox had fought back after taking some early tap, and were among four bowlers - the others being Leopard and Clarkson - to pick up a brace as the Stags finally began taking regular wickets through the back ten.
Chasing 311 for nine, the Stags ultimately found themselves in a similar position to their Friday capitulation, despite another good start from Dane Cleaver and an assured knock of 77 from classy BLACKCAP Will Young.
But Ross Taylor's Eden Park Outer Oval hoodoo in all formats continued, sadly for the maestro in his 300th List A match - a rare milestone among Kiwi cricketers. He got off the mark this time with a couple of thunderous boundaries, but it was third time unlucky as he mistimed spinner Louis Delport and skied a catch to Ross ter Braak who came racing round to take it in front of the sightscreen.
Young punched a delightful six, but it was the only one of the Stags' innings in a string of middling partnerships as the Aces suffocated them with wickets.
Just two rounds now remain in The Ford Trophy regular season ahead of the top three playoffs (beginning 3 March with the 2 v 3 Elimination Final), with round nine beginning this Friday in Hamilton, Wellington and Rangiora.
Canterbury and Northern Districts head the table on 22 points, followed by the Aces and Firebirds on 18, while the Otago Volts are also still in the frame with 16 after beating Canterbury in Queenstown.