11 Dec, Monday

Pulsating match ends in draw as Firebirds resist dominant ACES


Pulsating match ends in draw as Firebirds resist dominant ACES

James McCullyAces

Auckland ACES 508/6 dec. (SM Solia 151, MS Chapman 145, QLM Sunde 52*) & 143/1 (WT O’Donnell 75, Solia 56*) drew with Wellington Firebirds 267 (GR Severin 80, CR McLachlan 73, WER Somerville 4/42) & 299/8 (MA Abbas 130, NF Kelly 110, A Ashok 5/94)

It may have taken a little bit longer for the ACES’ Plunket Shield season to resume but it was well worth the wait as cracking weather combined with confident cricket for four days at Colin Maiden Park.

Due to the absolutely ridiculous amount of rain that has fallen in Auckland this summer, this was the first fixture that was able to be played at Colin Maiden but the pitch on day one looked like it any decent pitch would at this point in the season. A touch of green, perhaps, but plenty for the batters to lick their lips over.

Accordingly, ACES skipper Robbie O’Donnell elected to bat when he won the toss on Sunday. The Wellington bowlers were not able to take advantage of any movement on offer and the pitch flattened out to an absolute belter for the ACES batters to enjoy.

The openers Sean Solia and Will O’Donnell put on a 111-opening stand, batting the entire morning session before O’Donnell was dismissed for 42 just after the lunch break. Solia, who was the aggressor in the opening partnership, took a bystander role when Mark Chapman found the middle of the bat.

Chapman soared in the afternoon session, racing to 66 off 83 by the tea break, by which time Solia had brought up his 2nd first class century.

The two lefties exploited the lack of strong off-spin from the Firebirds, targeting the left arm orthodox of Rachin Ravindra and Kieran McComb, never allowing the spinners to settle into a rhythm and forcing skipper Nick Kelly to rely on his quick bowlers.

The marched through the evening session without further loss, Chapman bringing up his 5th first class century, to end day one at 302/1.

Day two saw a more aggressive approach from the ACES in general, as they pushed towards a declaration. Solia and Chapman carried on but were both dismissed in the morning session. Solia hit his highest first class score of 151 while Chapman fell one short of his with 145.

The middle order selflessly pushed the run rate higher with some aggressive cricket, often losing their wickets in the process. Debutant Quinn Sunde then found conditions to his liking at number 6, cracking 52 not out off 48 balls in his first knock for the ACES.

O’Donnell declared at 508/6, enduring a decent crack before stumps at the Wellington batters.

Lockie Ferguson, in his first first class match in three years, immediately dismissed Luke Georgeson when he played away from his body and caught the edge. The ACES applied the pressure and managed to extract three more Wellington wickets before stumps to leave them at 78/4.

Ferguson struck again the next morning to dismiss Nathan Smith before a big 6th wicket partnership rescued the Firebirds innings. Severin and McLachlan put on 123 before both were dismissed within two balls of each other, each to magical pieces of cricket.

Ashok, who hadn’t had any success so far in the innings, produced a savage googly to account for Severin before McLachlan pulled a Ferns bumper right to big Will Somerville on the boundary. Somerville reached above his head, snatched the ball and flung it to Will O’Donnell before falling backwards over the rope. An impressive piece of cricket by any standards, but especially so for a 38-year old bowler.

Some further resistance came but the last three wickets fell quickly to leave the Wellington at 267, still 241 runs behind the ACES.

Instead of enforcing the follow-on, Robbie O’Donnell opted to give his bowlers a break and his batters carte blanche to extend the lead in a short amount of time.

Will O’Donnell and Solia needed no further invitation, smashing 132 off 17 overs before O’Donnell was dismissed for 75. Another declaration came and the Firebirds were set 395 to win.

Ferguson once again tore through the Wellington top order before stumps, leaving them in a hole at 40/3.

Despite offering some turn, the pitch remained true for the final day and the Wellington batters finally offered enough resistance to counter the threat of Somerville, in particular, but also the quicks, who didn’t manage to find their way through the defences of Nick Kelly and Mohammed Abbas.

Their fifth wicket partnership was worth 221 and accounted for most of the day.

When they were both finally dismissed, Abbas for 130 in just his second first class match and Kelly for a well crafted 110, the Firebirds were 7 down with about 12 overs to go.

Ashok struck again, claiming his second 5-wicket bag in as many first class matches, but the ACES bowlers were unable to find their way through the final two batters and the match ended in a draw with Wellington at 299/8.

Next up the ACES travel down to Alexandra to take on the Otago Volts. With the points claimed from this match they’ve shifted into 5th position, above the Volts, but will need a big win to climb properly up the table.

Form, this time, is on their side.