AUCKLAND ACES V NORTHERN DISTRICTS
Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland
Result: Auckland Aces won by nine wickets
First innings bonus points
Bowling: Auckland Aces 4 (maximum achieved), ND 4 (maximum achieved)
Batting: ND 0 (completed), Auckland Aces 2 (completed)
The Auckland Aces cruised to a nine-wicket win with a day and a half to spare, moving to interim third on the Plunket Shield points table at the midpoint of the eight-round championship.
Northern Districts meanwhile remained in second spot, the two teams now level on 46 points but with ND holding second spot on a marginally better net run rate. But, they had just taken their first hit of a previously unbeaten summer.
The Aces had been set a target of 125 to win at Eden Park Outer Oval.
Earlier in the first session of the day, a stubborn eighth-wicket partnership between Nick Kelly (30) and Ish Sodhi had initially frustrated the hosts on another sultry Eden Park Outer Oval morning.
While Kelly added only 10 to his overnight tally, batting at nine BLACKCAP Sodhi belted his 47 off 57 balls, including seven fours and a six as he began to run out of partners.
The Aces were as jubilant as Sodhi was frustrated with himself when a prowling Robbie O'Donnell accepted a catch down the leg-side to finally remove him, with Jamie Brown already having claimed Brett Randell in his previous over.
All out for 262, ND needed a big one with the new ball if they were to have any chance of defending their small lead, and Scott Kuggeleijn had a breakthrough almost immediately with Sean Solia caught behind.
But the Aces soon took control, Glenn Phillips joining Graeme Beghin for the unbroken second wicket stand. Phillips boomed a six off Jimmy Baker to reduce the target to little more than 50 runs, with both men eventually reaching a half century as they finished off the job with a 125*-partnership.
The fast-moving battle at Eden Park Outer Oval kept developing at pace with the second innings underway on the second afternoon. The Auckland Aces had headed to lunch with a first-inning lead of 93, but just two wickets left in hand after a dramatic fightback from ND at Eden Park Oval in the morning session.
Scott Kuggeleijn had added captain Robbie O'Donnell and Will Somerville to his overnight two-for to be poised for a five-wicket bag, if he could make another strike after the break, the pair sent back in consecutive overs after O'Donnell (65) had lost a stream of partners in the all-action session.
Brett Randell and Ish Sodhi had meanwhile chimed in to pick up big cheap wickets in Finn Allen and Mark Chapman respectively, before combining to run out Ben Horne to have the Aces 209 for six, after a big mix-up with O'Donnell left Horne high and dry down the pitch.
After lunch Matt McEwan slashed at Daryl Mitchell only to sky a caught and bowled, taking the hosts to nine down, and ND to maximum bowling points. Kuggeleijn then snapped up Ben Lister for his ninth first-class five-wicket bag, halting the Aces' first-innings lead at 138.
Sean Solia made a quick breakthrough to have ND 12 for one with the loss of captain Daniel Flynn, and it became 12 for two as Ben Lister skidded one across Henry Cooper to have him caught to a nice low grab in the slips from captain O'Donnell.
Mitchell got a start before an outstanding catch off Somerville at 63 for three, the first of three handy Finn Allen grabs leaving Tim Seifert and Joe Carter to try to knock off the lead.
By tea the deficit was 54, Seifert having reached 37*, en route to a half century while Carter would top-score for the day with 69*.
But Solia (3-50) trapped Seifert soon after his fifty and Allen's hands were on fire as sashayed to his left at slip to remove Carter before holding a sharp one-handed diving grab at second slip to remove Anton Devcich for no score.
With Kuggeleijn falling victim to Danru Ferns on the last ball of the day, ND will take a 62-run lead into the third day with just three wickets in hand at 200 for seven, the Aces well placed to inflict a first defeat on them for the season if they can quickly wrap up the tail in the morning.
A big round four for the Auckland Aces' Plunket Shield campaign against unbeaten Northern Districts started with an action-packed day. The Aces quickly claimed the opening session, Northern Districts having headed into the match fresh off their second win of the season from three rounds while the Aces sat back in fourth.
Robbie O’Donnell having sent in their neighbours, Danru Ferns was the main beneficiary, heading to lunch with 3-27 and Ben Lister picking up an extra wicket by trapping Daniel Flynn after a start of 32, to have ND knocked back again at 96 for four.
Centurion in the previous match Joe Carter and Nick Kelly each resumed on 23*, but the middle session began badly, with both Carter and Anton Devcich departing in the first five overs after lunch — Matt McEwan getting both of them caught square to have ND 99 for two.
Kelly pushed on past 30* with new man Scott Kuggeleijn, but just four overs later McEwan struck again, trapping the incumbent on 31. Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi now faced a decision as to whether to lock down or play positively for the rest of the session, Sodhi tucking away a boundary to get off the mark first ball.
Kuggeleijn proved easy pickings for Ferns in a wicket maiden that took him to 4-27. Back from the BLACKCAPS Test Series win, Will Somerville then burgled the last two wickets to deny McEwan (3-33) or Ferns (4-33) a bag, not that any of the hosts were upset about rolling ND for 134 inside 52 overs.
Another wicket would fall before tea with Kuggeleijn getting an early breakthrough and the hosts going to 21 for one at the break after a hectic few hours under cloud-dappled skies.
By stumps, ND had kept fighting back to have the Aces 142 for three, Kuggeleijn adding Glenn Phillips (38) to his column before Jimmy Baker claimed the biggest wicket of the afternoon with the last ball of the day, Sean Solia mortified to have been bowled by a full toss on 71.
Captain O'Donnell will resume on 38* with Mark Chapman to join him in the morning, the Aces already with a slim lead on the first innings.