WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v AUCKLAND ACES
At the Basin Reserve, Wellington
8-11 November 2019
TOSS: Aces who elected to bowl
Bonus points (completed): Aces 4 bowling, Firebirds 0 batting; Firebirds 4 bowling, Aces 1 batting
Total points this round: Aces 5, Firebirds 4
DAY FOUR - no play possible
The Plunket Shield now takes a break until late February, when the final five rounds of the eight-round competition will resume.
Rain at the Basin say no play on the third day.
In a battle of the quicks, youngster Ben Sears put himself on an unconverted hat-trick in a lively second morning at the Basin.
Only half an hour of play was possible before drizzly wet weather put a stop the session, but it was a costly one for the Aces who lost Mark Chapman in the first over of the day, caught off 21-year-old Sears on his overnight score of 28, before the tall Wellingtonian helped himself to two more wickets in two balls off his following over.
The sudden loss of Chapman, Solia (25) and Ben Horne reduced the visitors from 112 for three to 114 for six, Sears sitting on 4-27 off 7.2 when the covers came on.
Hi I'm Ben Sears and I like to bowl fast! While we wait on an inspection at the @BasinReserve there is plenty of time to check out a sharp spell from young @wgtnfirebirds quick Ben Sears this morning v @aucklandcricket. VIDEO scorecard | https://t.co/9120PQW6OT #PlunketShield pic.twitter.com/92dFoe3zA4— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) November 9, 2019
Restarting did little for the Aces as Sears quickly added Kyle Jamieson, also for no score, to reach his maiden first-class five-wicket bag: an interim haul of 7.4-0-27-5, and his previous best having been 3-63 last season.
Despite a battling half century from Aces captain Robbie O'Donnell (an unbeaten 60* after sharing a 65-run stand for the eighth wicket with Will Somerville), the Aces were dismissed for 217 in 66.4 overs - Sears fittingly finishing things off to end with a landmark six for 43.
With 35 overs in the day remaining, the Firebirds were off to bat again and needed a big effort, the Aces in the lead on the first innings by 126 runs.
By stumps the Aces had them two down, the hosts still trailing by 22 with opening duo Rachin Ravindra and Fraser Colson both back in the pavilion. Devon Conway (32*) and captain Michael Bracewell (22*) will be looking to press on from their starts on the third morning tomorrow.
Stumps: Auckland Aces 111/3, earlier: Wellington Firebirds 91 all out
While resuming an innings on Nelson's (111) might not bode well for a superstitious man's sleep, the Aces are unlikely to be tossing and turning tonight - with a 20-run lead already on the scoreboard and seven wickets in hand to capitalise on it tomorrow.
Winning the toss on a green first-day pitch was crucial, and it put the new ball into the hands of Aces quick Lockie Ferguson whose return to red-ball cricket promptly netted him his 150th first-class wicket.
Pushing for a test call-up, Ferguson struck with his third ball of the morning, an in-swinger removing Fraser Colson for no score, notching his 150th before mopping up the lower order and adding Logan van Beek, Malcolm Nofal and last man Michael Snedden to his haul.
In the meantime, the Firebirds order had been quickly and clinically shredded, with Devon Conway's 22 the top score.
Playing in his 100th first-class match - with umpire Tim Parlane also bringing up his century, Conway was livid at himself as he looked to cut Sean Solia (2-15), only to be caught behind after a mere hour at the crease - a trifle by his usual standards, having scored a triple century here the previous week.
But with Matt McEwan grabbing 3-28, it was a bowling field day and the Firebirds were all back in the hut in just 31.3 overs.
The Firebirds' opening attack quickly made in-roads of their own, Iain McPeake and Logan van Beek picking up a wicket apiece while returning youngster Ben Sears bowled opener Jeet Raval in a rain-speckled last session.
When bad light brought a premature close to the day, Mark Chapman had reached 28* and Sean Solia 25* in a 51*-run stand for the fourth wicket, taking their side from 60/3 to 111/3 overnight and capable of pressing on for an advantage tomorrow.