Central Stags beat Auckland Aces by 113 runs - bonus point win
Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North
1 February 2022
The Stags made a statement in Palmerston North as a clash between two strong teams saw them strengthen their position on top of the points table.
In a livestreamed match played behind closed doors on a sweltering 30-degree Palmerston North day, the hosts steadily built a strong total of 296/7 after having been sent in - then repeated the clinical bowling they had shown against the Auckland Aces a week earlier in the T20 format to roll their guests for 183, with more than 10 overs to spare.
Embarking on a busy month of catch-up cricket, the Aces did not have luck on their side, losing star paceman Lockie Ferguson from the attack after his first four overs with a tender Achilles; spinners Mark Chapman and Glenn Phillips making up his complement.
Later, Central Stags wicketkeeper-batsman Dane Cleaver would be assisted gingerly from the field with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Those gutting moments were the only dampeners on a brutal showcase.
Both captains had indicated they would have liked to have bowled first, but it was Robbie O'Donnell who called correctly in Chapman's 50th List A appearance (below), in a match studded with 13 current or recent BLACKCAPS - including Ross Taylor's first Domestic appearance of the season.
Flying under that radar was teenage Auckland leg-spinner Adithya Ashok who continued to look right at home in his rookie season, turning in his best one-day figures yet of 3-53 off his 10 overs.
Later, Martin Guptill again profited in Palmy, after his match-winning T20 79* here earlier in the season. A picture of poise under pressure, he gave his side a fighting chance as he batted into the 30th over for a half century.
But, that was the point at which Doug Bracewell struck two pivotal blows, removing Aces skipper O'Donnell and Guptill with consecutive deliveries to knock the Aces from 114/3 to 114/5. His hat-trick ball was sharp as well.
All five of the Stags' attack went for less than run-a-ball, and picked up wickets, with Seth Rance finding swing as the afternoon heat turned humid, producing a peach to remove George Worker early.
Tickner showed his ticker as he went head to head with the formidable Guptill, and eventually he emerged with his career best by picking up Glenn Phillips at 98/3, stopping a desperate assault from Ben Horne (30 off 21) and finishing with a brace of tailenders, Ashok falling to a sharp reflex catch from Taylor and the injured Ferguson coming and going at the end.
Milne was explosive in his 1-42 and Jayden Lennox, chief Stags spinner on the day in the absence of an injured Ajaz Patel, crucially stopped Chapman on 22.
The tale of the tape was in the partnerships. Despite Guptill's steady platform, the Aces were not allowed to build a 50-stand.
In their innings, the Stags had meanwhile recovered from the early loss of Cleaver - left-armer Ben Lister (2-48) striking the first blow - as fellow opener Ben Smith (32) settled things down with Will Young.
The Aces' four-prong spin department landed a couple of big punches when Will Somerville stopped Smith from reaching a third consecutive fifty across the white-ball formats, then young Ashok had the master Taylor caught behind for just nine, at 88/3.
It was the Aces' chance to take control. Instead patient Young built a 73-stand for the fourth wicket - as Tom Bruce streaked past him and raced to 50 off 38 balls and the pair wrung the sweat out of their helmet.
Ashok lured Bruce into handing a catch to Chapman at 161/4, then soon had the big-hitter Josh Clarkson back in the pavilion as well.
But Young remained and, after a 63-ball half century, turned up the heat as he charged towards his fourth Ford Trophy century off 103 balls, the sixth overall of his one-day career.
Bracewell had a fine day with both bat and ball, injecting a quick 42 off 29 balls that ensured Central quickly got back on the horse - and began to gallop through the last 10 overs.
He was there to congratulate Young as he waved the bat again, in a sixth-wicket stand worth 78 runs.
Young's assured knock finally came to an end at 107 in the last over, but Adam Milne (17* off nine) had come out swinging and the Stags kept pumping their tally up and up at the death until they almost had a 300-total.
Ultimately, the 113-run victory was the Stags' biggest winning margin in one-dayers in Palmerston North, and among their top dozen anywhere.
With their net run rate now sitting at a healthy 2.21, they had earned their spot at the top of the table as they head to Dunedin for two big clashes against the feisty Otago Volts this Friday and Waitangi Day Sunday.