A maiden red-ball century for Brett Hampton | PHOTOSPORT

Hampton hundred in a Hamilton thriller




Seddon Park, Hamilton

8-11 March 2024



Danru Ferns : second first-class five-wicket bag, career best first-class bowling figures

Harjot Johal : Maiden first-class half century

Joe Carter: 9th first-class century

Brett Hampton : Maiden first-class century, 1000 first-class runs

Henry Cooper : career best first-class bowling figures

Joe Carter | All images: PHOTOSPORT


In one of the great Plunket Shield finishes, Northern Districts sweated all day against a determined Auckland Aces line-up, before snaffling a crucial victory with just minutes to spare.

It meant Northern snatched the Plunket Sheld lead back again, with two games to go.

Meanwhile, title rivals the Firebirds had been well on the back foot in Palmerston North in a tough encounter, and only narrowly stopped the Stags from taking an outright that could have seen the Stags right back up there, too, in the defence of their title.

As the sun was slipping down, a canny suggestion in Hamilton from Northern captain Jeet Raval to his part-time spinner Henry Cooper to bowl round the wicket could yet go down as one of the most influential moments of the championship season.


The Auckland Aces headed to humid Hamilton yet to win a game all season, and now they were taking on their better performed neighbours - the current championship frontrunner.

Little did anyone suspect how close this contest would be.


After an hour's delay for pesky weather, Aces captain Robbie O'Donnell predictably bowled after winning the toss in the overcast conditions, and by lunch Northern was already two down - with Aces wicketkeeper Cam Fletcher in thick of the early action.

Northern captain Jeet Raval's lean first-class pickings continued with a first-over duck, Fletcher flying a long way to his right to snaffle the edge off Ben Lister's swing.


Bharat Popli narrowly avoided the same fate off the very next ball as Lister welcomed him to the crease with the cherry jammed into his ribs.

Lister created all the early pressure, and his tight lines and testing angles would produce wickets as batters looked to go after Danru Ferns instead.

Lister bowling seven maidens in his 16 overs in all, for a tight return of 2/15.

Henry Cooper survived until the 10th over before he was caught behind off Ferns, a well-judged running catch to pocket a steepled delivery, this time, for the busy man Fletcher.


The keeper (and Ferns) would have another after lunch when he pouched Bharat Popli on 43 - but the middle session would belong to Northern, thanks to Joe Carter.

Carter had gone to lunch on 30* and picked up to bat throughout the next session, reaching 92 not out by tea.

The tea break did not rattle his concentration, and the experienced batter soon had his century off 181 balls, including nine boundaries and three sixes, as he relaxed into his work.

It was his ninth first-class century, and seventh for ND.

Frustration was mounting for the Aces, as the sunshine made conditions more pleasant at Seddon Park.


The hard-working Ferns (6/62) finally had Carter caught on 124, by which time ND was 230/8. Aces captain O’Donnell was on fire in the slips, with three catches in support of his bowlers Ferns and Jock McKenzie.

The last two wickets, both Walker brothers, fell quickly enough, though, and with it came a bag for Ferns as the Aces wrapped things up on 247 - denying Northern a second batting bonus by a whisker.

Joe Walker gave it a crack | PHOTOSPORT

By stumps, the Aces were 9/1 in the reply, having lost Sean Solia for no score to Kristian Clarke in the long shadows of the evening.


Northern had the best of the second day, in a strong position by the halfway mark at the end of the day. The boot was on the other foot, now, as they held a 215-run overall advantage with eight wickets in hand - in a strong position to dictate terms on the penultimate day.

How did that happen?

The Aces got themselves into this predicament thanks to a lacklustre first innings. They were dismissed for 158 in just 51.5 overs — a shortfall of 89.


Kristian Clarke (3/76), Matt Fisher (3/23) and Brett Hampton (3/18) all made an impact with the ball for Northern as the hosts ultimately took five first-innings points overall, against the Aces' four.

Had it not been for a swashbuckling, career-best from number 10 batter Harjot Johal – playing in just his second match for the Aces, it could have been much worse for the visitors.


Johal smacked five boundaries and four sixes to top-score with 65 before Matt Fisher claimed his wicket to end the innings.

Left-armer Lister has made two early breakthroughs in the Northern second innings, but the Aucklanders would need to keep that up on the coming morning with Raval (unbeaten on 60*) and Joe Carter (34 not out) set to resume a 90-run stand for the third wicket, with an overall lead already of 215 - and eight wickets in hand. Advantage, Northern.


It was a special day for allrounder Brett Hampton as the super fit 32-year-old finally cracked an elusive milestone: his maiden first-class century.


"Hammer" lived up to his nickname, as he does in all formats, hammered his maiden hundred at run-a-ball pace. Batting at seven, time is always of the essence - but it came off, and it meant ND continued to dominate the Aces at Seddon Park.

As he waved the bat on 100 not out, captain Raval declared ND's second innings at 334/9.


That set the Aces a challenging target of 423 to win, with just over four sessions remaining in the game.

By stumps, the Aucklanders had lost three key wickets, including captain O'Donnell.

They would head into the last day at 77/3, needing to find a further 347 runs if they are stop their losing streak.


Defending Plunket Shield champions the Central Stags won't be sending the Auckland Aces any Christmas cards this year after the Aces failed to see out the last two balls of their match against Northern Districts.

Had this match in Hamilton ended in a draw, the top of the table would still be a congested affair between ND and the Wellington Firebirds, with the Stags a good sniff in third, with two rounds to go, at the business end of the national first-class cricket championship.

After a sturdy, day-long fightback against their Hamilton-based hosts, the Aces came within mere minutes of salvaging an unlikely draw - after having needed to reach a lofty 423 in their last innings for a win, or hold onto seven wickets for a draw on the final day.

A golden arm | PHOTOSPORT

The odds had all been in Northern's favour but, by the start of the last over in the evening, the Aces were still hanging on at 360/9, and could deny Northern 12 outright points if they could just hold onto that last wicket as the clock wound down.

Instead, golden arm spinner Henry Cooper snaffled his third wicket with just two balls left in the match to ensure ND took 17 of the maximum possible 20 points on offer.

The last-minute victory catapulted an overjoyed Northern to a 13-point lead over former leaders the Wellington Firebirds – with the Firebirds meanwhile having denied the Central Stags a 20-pointer in Palmerston North in the most dramatic hour of the championships season.

Earlier, opener Will O'Donnell's 93 in combination with veteran George Worker's 72 had given the Aces an unlikely chance of victory.

The pair had piled on 163 for the fourth wicket to douse Northern's hopes of a quick victory.


But ND's spinners, Joe Walker (1/81, above), brother Freddy Walker (1/56) and Cooper (3/38) ultimately prevailed to finish off the job in the nick of time, after Raval whispered to Cooper to try coming round the wicket.

Northern hasn't lifted the Plunket Shield since 2009/10, and now stands a good chance of breaking that long-running title drought.

The Auckland Aces meanwhile become the first team to formally drop out of the running for the first-class title, consoling themselves this season with the Dream11 Super Smash men's trophy and a runner-up finish in the one-day Ford Trophy.

POINTS TABLE after 6 of 8 championship rounds

Northern Districts 80

Wellington Firebirds 67

Central Stags 58

Canterbury 48

Otago Volts 43

Auckland Aces 29






Asahi CCC Dream11 Dulux Ford Gillette GJ Gardner KFC Life Direct Pals Powerade Spark Spark