WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v AUCKLAND ACES
10-13 October 2018
Total points this round:
Wellington Firebirds 6
Auckland Aces 7
Braving the chill of a snow-kissed spring southerly, the Auckland Aces' slender first innings lead was to no avail in an ultimately drawn season opener at the Basin.
Fighting the weather as much as the hosts, Danru Ferns had brought up the Auckland Aces' 300 early on day four with back-to-back sixes off Jeetan Patel before the Aces were finally bowled out, on the stroke of lunch, for 313: a first-innings lead of 58 in the weather-interrupted match.
The day’s play had started late, after a further ground delay, and the temperature at the scheduled start time was barely five degrees.
Before Ferns warmed himself up with a freeing of the arms, Ben Horne and Will Somerville had stuck together for 18 overs to take the Aces past the Firebirds’ first-innings tally.
Somerville and Ben Lister would be lost off consecutive Logan van Beek deliveries; Ferns, however, achieved his highest first-class score: 21 off 25 balls before he was caught behind off Iain McPeake.
With just two sessions remaining in the stop-start match, the Firebirds were in no man's land and had little option but to play for the draw.
The Aces meanwhile had an early sniff at outright points. Left-armer Lister removed debutant Andrew Fletcher after just seven overs, and Aces debutant Somerville, a player packing a decade's experience for New South Wales, bowled veteran Luke Woodcock 10 overs later.
From there the match meandered to its most likely conclusion, Devon Conway (39*) and Michael Bracewell (32*) remaining unbeaten before the match was called in the final session.
The Wellington Firebirds now await the Otago Volts while the Aces will return home to Eden Park Outer Oval to look for their first win against early leaders the Central Stags next week.
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Wet weather swirling around New Zealand's midriff saw day three called off with no play possible.
BLACKCAP Jeet Raval carried on where he left off the previous evening to raise his first century of 2018/19, and 13th for the Auckland Aces in the Plunket Shield.
His patient innings of 102 was his 15th ton overall at first-class level and ensured the Aces built a steady platform on a rain-delayed and interrupted second day at the Basin as he batted into the final session.
With his partners Raval, all focus and intent, saw to it that almost 200 runs were put up on the scoreboard for his team, reaching his own three figures with a sweetly timed boundary off Iain McPeake.
It took a startling piece of fielding to end his stint, the opener on 102 stunningly caught close in off Jeetan Patel, Devon Conway having to spin around backwards, almost full circle, as he fumbled his first attempt before managing to snaffle the rebound left-handed.
Robbie O'Donnell had provided the critical support in a 107-run stand for the fourth wicket and initially picked up the baton after Raval departed at 195 for four, joined now by Graeme Beghin.
O'Donnell's dismissal just before stumps, however, took the gloss off an otherwise solid, if truncated day for the visitors when he was comfortably caught by slipper Jimmy Neesham, Hamish Bennett striking with the new ball and O'Donnell stopped on 73.
At 229 for five, the Aces trailed now by just 26 runs and will return for day three with debutants Beghin and Will Somerville at the crease looking to create the advantage.
Two former Otago Volts comrades — stepping out together, for the first time now in Wellington gold and black — made the difference for their teammates on day one of the season at the Basin.
Michael Bracewell (below), who had migrated last season to captain the Firebirds, struggled for runs last summer and will have been well pleased to notch 53 straight off the bat in 2018/19 after having been sent in.
The hulky number four had been joined in the 20th over by new southern import Jimmy Neesham who likewise got his summer off to a flier with a quick half century, the pair guiding the side from a precarious 62/3 before lunch to 152/4, at Bracewell’s dismissal — the skipper left kicking himself after he swiped at Danru Ferns only to sky the ball so high it had snow on it, wicketkeeper Lauchie Johns needing to run and fight the sun to eventually pouch the grab.
But there was also frustration for the hosts, once it became clear that they had failed to capitalise and Bracewell’s 53 would be the top score in the innings against an Auckland Aces side that had been to Abu Dhabi and back in the previous week, touching down only on Monday.
Logan van Beek and new keeper Johns (who contributed a career best 40, coming in after a sudden lurch at 169/6) were the only other batsmen who really threatened to go on before the Aces restricted the damage to 255, dismissing the last batsman after tea.
The match sees the debut in Auckland colours of experienced former Otago Volts and New South Wales first-class cricketer Will Somerville (above) and he opened his books at Auckland by wrapping up the innings with his 3-52, while Matt McEwan led the way with 4-48.
There had been a new face at the top of the order with retired rock Michael Papps no longer on the scene. It opened the door for Andrew Fletcher’s first-class debut, and he batted almost through the first hour before Sean Solia (below) bowled him round his legs on 18. Graeme Beghin meanwhile made his first-class debut for the Aces.
The Aces’ chase got off to a rocky start with captain Michael Guptill-Bunce undone by Hamish Bennett for no score, but fellow opener Jeet Raval stayed put and was on the verge of a half century by stumps, the Aces heading back in at 64 for two.