Colin Munro restored order after early wickets rocked the Aces

Spinner’s a winner as Aces trump Stags

Ford Trophy 1v2 Preliminary Final: Mondiale Auckland Aces 260 in 49.3 overs (Munro 53, de Grandhomme 63, O’Donnell 36, Nethula 36; Bracewell 4-44) beat the Devon Hotel Central Stags 215 in 43.3 overs (Young 56, Cleaver 66; Nethula 4-51, Bates 3-38) by 45 runs at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth

Popular wisdom is that 260, an RPO of just 5.22, isn’t normally good enough to win at Pukekura Park — but the Mondiale Auckland Aces have secured themselves a home Ford Trophy Grand Final at Colin Maiden Park after dismissing the Devon Hotel Central Stags for 215 in 43.3 overs on a stunning blue-sky day in New Plymouth.

Video scorecard

Spinner Tarun Nethula has taken wickets all season for the Aces and today he delivered a crucial all-round performance with 4-51 and, earlier, a tailend 36 that helped push his team up to its first innings tally.

Listen to Tarun Nethula post-match

Following a shocking top order collapse that had seen the Aces listing at 34-4, much had rested, too, on the shoulders of Colin Munro (53 off 38) and Colin de Grandhomme (63 off 64), their positive stand playing a pivotal role in restoring order as they went on a boundary spree for a racy 50 partnership.

Aces skipper Michael Bates had elected to bat first, but the Stags got on top quickly with the early wickets — including that of Aces debutant Glenn Phillips, of Howick-Pakuranga, who opened with Brad Cachopa — and they put pressure on the Aces with a superb fielding performance.

The showstopper was when Dane Cleaver covered some 25 metres in the outfield to nail a spectacular running catch to dismiss Robbie O’Donnell (36), one of four wickets for Doug Bracewell.

The only opportunity to go begging was a difficult chance in the deep that dropped just short of George Worker, off Andy Mathieson. Colin de Grandhomme was on 27 at the time — and thumped a six next ball to rub it in. Still, it was a gratifying turnaround for the Stags after having let themselves down in the field in their previous outing in Wellington.

But the Aces showed that anything the Stags could do, they could do just as well — if not better. Craig Cachopa (who had earlier had an uncharacteristically ugly time of it with the bat, lobbing a catch straight to Bevan Small) took two fine catches to remove both Doug Bracewell and Dane Cleaver.

Cleaver had made a brilliant late charge to keep the Stags in with a hope, galloping to his 60 off just 40 balls with six sixes and four boundaries. It broke the mould after the Stags had tried to consolidate with smart singles, Will Young making his third half-century with patient support from Dean Robinson, who fell when he was on 27.

They’d come together at the end of the sixth over after the Aces had delivered a couple of big, power blows in stopping Jamie How (trapped by Donovan Grobbelaar on 5) and George Worker (bowled by Matt Quinn for 13 in a wicket maiden), the wickets falling within eight balls of each other for no addition to the score.

Ultimately, though, there was just not enough support through the order for the Stags to get themselves across the line as the wicket pressure mounted and they went down by 45 runs.

Listen to Devon Hotel Central Stags captain Kruger van Wyk post-match

The loss means the Stags will now be back at the Pukekura Park on Wednesday to take on the SBS Bank Otago Volts in the sudden death Ford Trophy Semi-Final.

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