Round 5 Ford Trophy: Mondiale Auckland Aces 225 in 50 overs (Munro 50, de Grandhomme 45, Brad Cachopa 38; Small 10-1-47-4, Mathieson 3-42) lost to the Devon Hotel Central Stags 226/5 in 45.4 overs (Smith 74, van Wyk 38, Noema-Barnett 38 not out; Quinn 8-1-48-3) by five wickets
The Devon Hotel Central Stags cruised past the Mondiale Auckland Aces by five wickets to mark Jamie How’s Palmerston North farewell. The win brought relief for the hosts, who had been determined to make sure How’s last home town game was a celebration of Manawatu’s finest.
Ford Trophy legend How, the only man to have scored a double century, and his opening partner George Worker both went into the match in cracking touch, having scored an astounding 668 runs between them in the first four rounds — and that included How’s second round duck.
Yet as luck would have it, this was the first match in which neither of the power duo got going, as young Auckland seamer Matt Quinn picked up both the big wickets in his opening two overs.
The Stags were chasing a relatively chaste target, however, of 226, after Aces captain Rob Nicol had opted to bat first on a fine Palmy day.
After a second consecutive half-century from Ben Smith (the number three made 78 off 81 despite breaking a bone in his foot mid-innings) stabilised the Stags’ innings, they were able to take a low-risk approach to see them home through the back half of their chase — having needed an asking rate well below run-a-ball for most of the innings.
It was an encouraging win for the Stags after a combination of injuries and BLACKCAPS selections had forced them to draw substantially on their reserves. Spinner Marty Kain (below) opened the bowling in Adam Milne’s absence, while Jeet Raval paired up with Anaru Kitchen at the top for the Aces in place of Martin Guptill.
BLACKCAP Mitch McClenaghan had already stepped down from Aces duty in the previous round, meanwhile the Stags had been forced to call replacement personnel into their changing shed after having lost the bowling services of Seth Rance (groin strain) and Doug Bracewell (to the BLACKCAPS Test squad) — creating opportunities for Hawke’s Bay seamer Stevie Smidt and, today, Taranaki’s Dane Cleaver.
When Smidt bowled three overs in the previous round in Nelson, it was his first Ford Trophy appearance for the Stags since 2011. But the rust had washed off in Palmerston North, Smidt going for just 11 runs off his opening four-over spell. Later he returned to pick up the wicket of de Grandhomme, whom he bowled. The early pressure had led to a first-ball strike by Bevan Small, who skittled Anaru Kitchen at the start of the 10th over for a wicket maiden.
Raval finally got the Aces their first boundary in the following over, but was bowled very next ball by Andy Mathieson. Small struck again several overs later when Will Young potted the first of his two catches to stop Craig Cachopa’s fledgling partnership with Rob Nicol. Kieran Noema-Barnett had meanwhile opened his figures with a maiden, carrying on his good control from the previous game, and earned the prize of Nicol’s wicket in the 21st over.
The Aces’ “two Colins” — de Grandhomme and Munro — were now faced with an urgent job to lift the strike rate, and the Aces couldn’t have had two bigger hitters for that job. De Grandhomme welcomed back Kain with a six to post the Aces’ 100 in the 27th over, while Munro bludgeoned twin sixes off Worker in the 33rd over.
But the Stags wrested back control after de Grandhomme, Munro and Donovan Grobbelaar were all sent packing in the space of five overs — Munro bowled immediately after marking his 55-ball half-century, having got there after being dropped just beforehand by Kruger van Wyk in an eventful few balls.
Despite a late flurry from Brad Cachopa (38), the Stags generally kept a lid on things at the death and the Aces were all out on the last ball of the innings, Small collecting 4-47.
Set a required RPO of just 4.52, the Stags had a full 15 overs in which to find their last 62 runs and wrapped up their victory with more than four overs to spare — handing the Aces a second consecutive defeat in the process.