Ford Trophy round seven: SKYCITY Northern Knights 300 in 50 overs (Brownlie 118, Watling 40, Santner 40, Kuggeleijn 33; Mills 10-1-31-1, Bates 3-71, Nethula 3-50) lost to Mondiale Auckland Aces 303/9 (Brad Cachopa 47, Kitchen 42, Craig Cachopa 80, de Grandhomme 37; Santner 3-70) by one wicket at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland
World Cup squad bowler Kyle Mills passed his first test with flying colours in his first match for the Mondiale Auckland Aces after having injured his groin on tour with the BLACKCAPS back in December.
Listen to Kyle Mills assessing his comeback after the match
Mills opened the attack after stand-in captain Michael Bates (deputising for Rob Nicol, who had busted his foot in the previous round) had inserted the SKYCITY Northern Knights on a sunny Eden Park outer oval. The senior seamer commanded respect throughout, and made the early breakthrough, getting Anton Devcich caught behind for a wicket maiden in the seventh.
His first spell of six overs went for just nine runs — and a couple of those were self-inflicted wides — as Knights opener Dean Brownlie batted to the conditions early on, before powering up through the back half of his innings to reach his first Ford Trophy century, off 123 balls — adding to his two List A centuries for New Zealand A.
Watch Dean Brownlie posting his maiden Ford Trophy century:
Brownlie was assisted by a swishing, deft BJ Watling in a 109-run stand for the fourth wicket. Add a confident 40 from young Mitch Santner and quick 33 from Scott Kuggeleijn and by lunch the Knights should have been satisfied with their tally of 300, having lost their final wicket going for one last run on the last ball of the innings.
How valuable that run could have been.
After both Brad Cachopa and Anaru Kitchen fell just short of half-centuries and Aces powerhouse Craig Cachopa missed out on chalking up yet another century after a brain fade on 80 immediately after launching a six off Kuggeleijn, the Knights could have been forgiven for thinking they only had to stop the big-hitting “two Colins” (de Grandhomme and Munro) to put themselves in control of their destiny.
True to form, de Grandhomme punched four sixes in his quickfire 37 before rising star Santner had a hand in his run out — then the feisty young spinner put himself on a hat-trick in the 49th over after Donovan Grobbelaar was caught, and Mills stumped.
But by now things had got decidedly hairy for the Knights, thanks to the late order duo following de Grandhomme's lead and cracking timely sixes. After having needed 29 from the last three overs, the Aces had pared the equation down to seven off the final over.
Despite Bates falling caught and bowled to Anurag Verma on the penultimate delivery of the match, putting the Aces' entire bench on the edge of their seat, the tailenders did the job as new man Matt Quinn, the number eleven, needing two runs to win, swung hard and drove the last ball to the straight boundary to clinch a thrilling, last-ditch victory by one wicket.
The Knights could not believe it, but they will not have to wait long for the rematch as the two sides meet again in round eight, at Mount Maunganui on Wednesday, the last round before the Preliminary Finals begin.