WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v AUCKLAND ACES
7 November 2018
Result: Wellington Firebirds won by 120 runs
It was disappointment on the road for the Auckland Aces as a top-of-the-table clash at the Basin Reserve at the halfway point of The Ford Trophy regular season turned in a result dominated by the hosts.
The Aucklanders dropped from a close second to third on the table as a consequence, and will be keen to get back home to their fortress of Eden Park Outer Oval this Saturday against a wounded Central Stags squad.
The Firebirds meanwhile continue to fly high in the race for a qualifier spot. Captain Hamish Bennett won the toss and asked Craig Cachopa’s men to field, but the Aces struggled while the Birds again got off to their by now characteristic fast start.
The season’s leading batsman Andrew Fletcher grabbed a boundary first ball of the innings but was not destined to repeat the heroics of his earlier matches, Danru Ferns delighting in taking out his off-stump with a ball that kept low on an up-and-down pitch.
Malcolm Nofal stepped easily into the lead-scoring role, however, hitting 38 off 37 balls before he was caught behind off Jamie Brown down the leg side.
Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway helped the form-horse hosts along, though Bracewell was dismissed with the Firebirds 109 after 22 overs.
Enter Jimmy Neesham who wasted no time in slotting two sixes and the run rate escalated as he bounded his way to 67 off 46 balls before being stumped.
With Conway still in the middle as the match hit the last 10 overs, the Firebirds were always on for a big score and the Aces had to focus hard on putting the squeeze on at the death.
And, the death bowling was impressive from Mitchell McClenaghan, Danru Ferns, and Sean Solia. The last 10 overs went for just 59 runs, frustrating the Firebirds batsmen.
Solia collected three wickets caught on the boundary in the dramatic 49th over, including Conway for 94. McClenaghan then picked up the last wicket, the hosts all out for 278.
The chase got off to an inauspicious start, young Finn Allen’s rough trot continuing as he was dismissed for four.
Rather than going after the total all hammer and tongs, Solia and Michael Barry took a conservative approach for the next 12 overs for 38 runs, but Solia was dismissed on 22 before he had his chance to build.
Craig Cachopa couldn’t follow up his heroics from Sunday, falling for 21 after another cautious innings.
The chase was already looking shaky, and did not improve for the visitors as Will O’Donnell was dismissed first ball.
Barry was stumped on 21 as he tried to increase the run rate while a surprise cameo from Will Somerville brought some life to the chase.
Somerville reached his first half century off 60 balls before the Aces were bowled out for 158, the red hot competition leaders securing a win by 120 runs. They will now head south to Dunedin looking to continue their roll against a resurgent Otago Volts team at University of Otago Oval this Saturday.