AUCKLAND ACES v NORTHERN DISTRICTS
Eden Park Outer Oval
24 October 2018
RESULT: Auckland Aces won by two wickets
The Auckland Aces found themselves pushed right to the final over in a nailbiting start to their Ford Trophy defence.
For opponents ND, the round-one visit to the Aces’ Sandringham “fortress” was a reinforced by Trent Boult’s first List A match in maroon since April 2014’s Grand Final, and his match-up against fellow strike bowler Mitch McClenaghan (3-57) was always going to be a treat.
Boult would quickly put himself on an unconverted hat-trick when it was his turn to bowl, but first it was his northern mates who were sent in by Aces captain Craig Cachopa to feel the heat against fire-breathing McClenaghan.
Big Mitch claimed the first three wickets, having ND in nervous straits at 42 for three before they fought back, Daryl Mitchell (66) key as he built partnerships with Anton Devcich and Dean Brownlie.
However, Mitchell’s dismissal at 168 for six had them back under Cachopa’s thumb, and even in danger of falling shy of 200. Cue big-hitting Bay of Plenty man Brett Hampton, striding out to hit an unbeaten 79 off 52 balls, bashing six fours and four sixes.
"Hammer" Hampton (below) got Northern Districts up to 268 before his side was dismissed in the 46th over.
Still, the Aces would have fancied their chances at lunchtime, so long as they could manage the key threats in the international-laced attack.
Boult ripped out both Finn Allen and Michael Barry in the first over of the reply with his consecutive strikes, before Cachopa played a captain’s hand alongside Sean Solia to see off the opening bowlers in a stabilising partnership of 75.
Both started to play quite fluently until Neil Wagner, the aggressive BLACKCAP playing his first match for ND, was brought in and swiftly removed Cachopa for 26.
Meanwhile, Solia continued to develop his innings and, as the chase moved into the 35th over and everything was coming straight from the middle, he moved into the 90s. The left-hander in just his 15th appearance brought up his second List A century with a flick to deep midwicket.
In support, Will Somerville combined with him to bring up a 50-run partnership for the seventh wicket. When Somerville (25) departed, three wickets remained with 17 runs needed off 2.2 overs, and McClenaghan heading out to bat.
The big Auck hit a second-ball 6 to relieve some of the pressure, but was dismissed for seven.
The Aces now requiring nine from nine, Danru Ferns joined Solia and played sensibly to take it into the last over: five to win. A thriller!
Solia squeezed a single off the first ball and Ferns took a two from the third ball. With one for a tie, two to win and three balls to go, Ferns then finished off the innings in style with a cover drive to the boundary.
Solia, who had a career best of 152 from his maiden effort and now averages over 50 in the format, deserved the match honours after his outstanding unbeaten 133, 16 fours and a six having done the job for his team and a contented home crowd.
ND will now look for their first win on Sunday against the Volts (who likewise took a first-round loss) at home at Hamilton’s Seddon Park (free entry), while the Auckland Aces will remain at Eden Park Outer Oval to await fellow first-up victors the Wellington Firebirds, entry on Sunday by gold coin donation at the gate.