Northern Districts v Canterbury at Cobham Oval, Whangarei on 17 February 2017
2018 3v4 “Minor” Semi-Final
Back from the dead, Canterbury is rediscovering its one-day mojo just at the right time in order to keep its dream of defending The Ford Trophy alive.
Hoping to stand in their way on a cloudy, humid Whangarei afternoon was Northern Districts, whose own dream of adding the national one-day title to the Burger King Super Smash title would be quashed, and with little room for argument after being outplayed in the day’s only do-or-die playoff.
Canterbury captain Andrew Ellis batted first at the big Northland venue but evergreen 39-year-old seamer Brent Arnel (4-45) made the better start, picking up both openers in his opening spell, with barely a run against his brace.
First drop Henry Nicholls had therefore taken his guard in just the second over at four for one, but would make the hosts pay dearly for the next 40-odd overs.
Nicholls pulled out some of his best vintage strokeplay along the way to his third List A century — all of them in the red and black.
Tom Latham (36) joined him for a 116-run third wicket stand, yet almost played second fiddle to commanding Nicholls who would eventually reach 122 off 131 balls.
Latham’s innings came to a premature end when he sent up a skier much to the delight of spinner Joe Walker (below), and replacement Cole McConchie was soon back in the changing rooms with him after Scott Kuggeleijn helped peg it back to 169 for four.
The innings might have been in the balance, then, with 16 overs to come, but with his hand injury all healed, captain Ellis has been brutal in the number six position since The Ford Trophy resumed. Coming off scores of 93 not out and 29, he was good for another half century — his 11th at this level, his average now climbing above 33.00.
Moreover, he belted his half ton off just 39 balls before offering a caught and bowled to Daryl Mitchell, who had also claimed Nicholls in his 3-53 after eventually coming into the attack as the sixth bowler.
Tim Johnston was run out by a dead-eye throw from Daniel Flynn next over, Matt Henry swiped to his doom against Mitchell and Kyle Jamieson was yorked by Arnel as the end of the Canterbury innings unravelled in rather ugly fashion, leaving Cameron Fletcher somewhat wasted at the other end with his unbeaten 15 and four balls unutilised as the hapless execution of Ed Nuttall against Arnel saw to it that Canterbury was bowled out.
With 287 runs on the visitors’ board there was fair pressure on ND to get a good start in reply, but they got anything but that, plummeting to 40 for five inside the first 15 overs.
Quick Ed Nuttall made the first two breakthroughs, trapping BJ Watling with a peach of a yorker, then bouncing out the in-form Nick Kelly for just three.
Arguably the biggest blow was the loss of ND captain Dean Brownlie for no score, given out lbw to Matt Henry to a delivery that seemed on the high side. Flynn followed and the last thing ND needed was Mitchell to be run out attempting a quick single, but it was never there and so they found themselves in a big knot at 40 for five, then 42 for six when Henry Cooper provided a second wicket for Kyle Jamieson.
It only got worse, despite fighting cameos from Brett Hampton and Scott Kuggeleijn. Batting at nine, Joe Walker survived long enough to top score with an unbeaten 31, his best List A score. There was little cause to feel good about it, given he was rapidly running out of partners — the final two ND wickets toppling for no score to roll the third qualifiers for 119 in just 31.2 overs.
It was a brutal exit, the 168-run defeat at the hands of the defending champions — a side that had only just scraped into the playoffs on weather-affected results — a new Canterbury List A record for their largest winning margin by runs, exceeding the previous mark of 156 they had set against the Stags in the 2012/13 season.
Having been last with two rounds to go, then the fourth qualifier, embattled Canterbury was off to the ball after all — to Wednesday’s Elimination Final against the Aces at least (11am at Colin Maiden Park, Auckland) which will determine which of them makes it to the Grand Final against the Stags at Pukekura Park on Saturday.
On respective Semi-Finals form, you would expect the Aces to be suddenly feeling nervous.