2024 one-day champions | PHOTOSPORT

Canterbury wins a hard-fought Ford Trophy Grand Final


CANTERBURY defeated AUCKLAND ACES by 5 wickets - DLS

24February 2024

Hagley Oval, Christchurch



Henry Nicholls : 150th List A match

Ben Lister : 50th List A match for Auckland Aces

All images | PHOTOSPORT

Coach Peter Fulton’s ‘lucky moustache’ might need to stay on for a little while longer, after Canterbury lifted The Ford Trophy for the 2023/24 season.

With his team having been on a winning roll since growing his mo, Fulton wasn’t about to change a thing as his team headed into the Hagley Oval home Final as the top qualifier - in a rematch of this season’s Dream11 Super Smash Final with the Auckland Aces, who had meanwhile got up over the Otago Volts to make the title match in Christchurch.

The Aces had won the T20 title after a second-innings washout in Auckland (they had been the top qualifier) and, while a bit of wet weather also came into play during the latter stages of Canterbury’s Grand Final run chase in The Ford Trophy, this time it was going to be settled on the field - and Tom Latham’s nous had pushed Canterbury ahead on the DLS even before the reduction of overs.

A run-a-ball chase through the final stanzas boiled down to the last over of a reduced, 38-over second innings, Michael Rippon tapping the winning runs for what was officially a 5-wicket DLS victory.

But it was a nervy, hard-fought and oscillating contest, on a deck that had good early life in it and movement; between two strong teams on a warm but overcast day when the hovering blue clouds suggested it was a good day to be a pace bowler.

Canterbury captain Cole McConchie had had no hesitation in electing to bowl, big Will O’Rourke (0/40 off 10) back from the BLACKCAPS Test team and straight into his work - opening with a maiden, in tandem with Zak Foulkes whose first over cost just a leg bye.

Foulkes and O’Rourke have been dangermen all summer, and they it their areas as the Aces were forced into a careful start. But at the same time, the visitors denied Canterbury any early wickets.

The hugely experienced George Worker was just the man for the job — returning for the now-unavailable Martin Guptill (heading off to the Pakistan Super League) who had tonned up in the Elimination Final. With partner Cole Briggs, Worker patiently got the Aces to 40 without loss after the first 10, all the top order ultimately getting in.

Denied the early breakthrough, McConchie tossed the ball to his first change Gus McKenzie - who was playing opposite his brother Jock in the Grand Final.

The red Mckenzie almost immediately lifted his side with a breakthrough, Briggs on his way for 26 after having been trapped.

Worker recombined with captain Sean Solia who likewise would have bowled first. Solia was back from a rolled ankle for the big game, and the pair built another 47-stand for the second wicket.

But by the 20-over mark, the Aces were still just 74/1. The deck, and attack, demanded a concentrated effort, without anything too adventurous too early.

Henry Shipley (1/47) came into the attack for his long-awaited return to the game, following recovery from stress fractures in his back that had kept him out of cricket since July the previous year.

Canterbury continued to keep the pressure on, then McConchie brought himself on and got the big wicket of Worker (37 off 67), caught chipping into the deep off the captain’s second over, the 23rd. It was a key moment, denying the left-hander a chance to cash in on his good start.

The Aces got their hundred on the board in the 25th, their top batter this summer now at the crease, with another important role to play.

Robbie O’Donnell was fresh off a match-winning century in the Elimination Final against the Otago Volts in Dunedin and quickly found the boundary in a good battle with O’Rourke.

Again, the Aces strung together a stand, Solia and O’Donnell adding 50 together and picking up the scoring rate - before Solia fell on 41 to a sharp, flying catch from Chad Bowes, prowling the gully at 142/3.

Shipley had his first wicket. But as they headed into the 34th over, the Aces still had plenty of wickets in hand.

O’Donnell was joined by his brother Will O’Donnell - another man in good touch, but the latter soon fell to a brilliant catch by Tom Latham who showed off his wicketkeeping instincts in the field with a stunning, one-handed, diving catch, to his right mitt, at 164/4.

That still left one dangerous O’Donnell sibling in play, however, and Robbie wasn’t going anywhere for the rest of the innings.

Lifting the intensity from the 44th over, he and powerful Cam Fletcher began also lifting the ball over the rope — O’Donnell finishing unbeaten with the top score of 74* off just 80 balls (including six boundaries and a six).

Fletcher punched 41 off 36 (three sixes, one boundary) against his former teammates, before the impressive Foulkes (2/55) had his second wicket.

The Aces elevated the free-spirited Louis Delport from nine to come in next and, after a risqué moment or two, he slapped an unbeaten 23* off 14 balls to finish the innings at 264/5.

The Aucklanders had got a total on the board after absorbing the early pressure. Meanwhile, the weather was beginning to cast a few spits at them from the fat clouds parked above.

The Aces knew they would need to bowl well in response, against a Canterbury top order in serious form — and with the ilk of Latham and Shipley back as well.

Solia’s men arguably made the better start, by getting wickets. Young fast-medium paceman Angus Olliver got Chad Bowes to edge behind in the opening over.

Then big left-armer Ben Lister, the dot-ball machine, got some extra bounce and the huge wicket of in-form Henry Nicholls who chopped on a good seed at 18/2. A wicket maiden.

Leo Carter and Latham had the responsibility of rebuilding as the argy-bargy between the teams continued, and were making good progress with a 71-run stand for the third before a tight Solia induced an easy catch from Carter on 33.

Earlier, Latham had been dropped on six — a difficult return catch opportunity for Olliver, and it would prove a costly moment as he went on with authority.

Meanwhile, the skies were darkening. Just as the light towers came on at 29.2 overs into the chase, the occasional droplets from above converted into a shower that brought the covers on at 141/3 in the 30th over - with Canterbury eight runs ahead on the DLS, albeit still needing almost eight runs an over.

They had an unbroken 52* stand, by now, between Cole McConchie and Latham - who’d just coasted past his half century.

It was a nervous and long wait for the Aces to get back on, the covers going on and off again with another couple of brief, but brisk, showers, before play finally recommenced at 6.15pm, the target reduced to 206: 65 runs from 52 balls, now.

There was still a sniff for the Aces and before long, Lister’s toil was rewarded with the prize wicket of Latham, trapped by his swing. Then Mitch Hay came and went after a fine diving catch by Worker off Danru Ferns.

But McConchie (59 not out) went marching on to his half ton, with a top rearguard exponent in Michael Rippon for assistance. The last pair whittled the chase down to run-a-ball for the last five overs, surviving everythine the Aces could throw at them.

It had been a final with a bit of everything. Tight bowling, good running, desperation, determined batting, dropped sitters, brilliant fielding, slippery catches that just didn’t stick — and an abundance of left-hand duels.

But in the end, consistent Canterbury had shaken off their bridesmaid tag with a calmly executed performance, in a championship that had almost gone down to the wire.






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