The ACES have clung on against the Central Stags to go two-from-two at the Outer Oval.
Day Four started with the Stags requiring 77 runs and the ACES desperate for the final two wickets. Doug Bracewell held the key, returning to the crease on 65*, and had Seth Rance by his side.
As early as the second over, a difficult chance escaped substitute wicket-keeper Cole Briggs, diving away to cover the gap between himself and Glenn Phillips at a floating first slip. Will Somerville broke through relatively early on, but again the dismissal was not without drama.
With Rance on strike, Martin Guptill yelled out to Mark Chapman to be ready at the long-on boundary. Rance then heaved at a good-length delivery and had he middled it Chapman might have been in the action.
The ball, however, skewed off the inside half of Rance’s bat and flew towards Guptill at deep mid-wicket. The ACES veteran somehow lost the ball in background of Kingsland; as the ball was in the air, Chapman returned the favour yelling out to Guptill, who reacted late to cling on to his fifth catch of the match.
Pressure was well and truly on the Stags at that point, but there was plenty of tension for the ACES as well. Bracewell clubbed Somerville for back-to-back sixes as he raced into the 90s. A moment of good fortune then fell Bracewell’s way when his inside edge snuck past Briggs to the boundary. A couple of singles later and Bracewell had a well-deserved third First-Class century.
The game of cat-and-mouse continued with Bracewell and Toole well aware of who the Stags wanted on strike. With Bracewell through to three-figures, ACES skipper Robbie O’Donnell took his time to set his fields.
Sean Solia (4-41) had done an excellent job of keeping the Stags quiet as the ACES prepared for the new ball. In the 80th over, however, Bracewell’s lofted drive looked destined for the extra cover boundary. Chapman had other ideas running 30 metres to his left before taking a diving catch over his shoulder. The early contender for catch of the season secured the ACES a 25-run win and a spot in second trailing Canterbury by two points after the first two rounds.
Bracewell rightfully took the applause as the players left the field, having added a magnificent century to seven wickets in the match. The two sides meet again at Saxton Oval in Nelson, starting Thursday.
Auckland ACES 167 (M Chapman 54, D Bracewell 3-18, S Rance 3-54) and 269 (G Phillips 66, G Beghin 55, R Toole 4-38, D Bracewell 4-96) lead Central Stags 150 (G Worker 53, K Jamieson 5-41) and 261 (D Bracewell 102, J Field 32, S Solia 4-41) by 25 runs.