Perhaps as a result of winning last year’s match-up on the back of Louis Delport and Will Somerville’s hard work, the ACES turned up in Alexandra with a triple-threat spin attack, ready to take on the Otago Volts on an expectantly dry track.
While the track was indeed low and slow, apart from an initial burst by Otago’s opening pace bowlers, none of the bowlers from either side found an incisive way to burst through the opposition’s defences.
Unfortunately, the batters also never managed to find an easy way to score quickly and thus the match became an attritional battle between bat and ball, neither dominating each other enough to move the match forward, whether that be through triggering collapses with quick wickets or moving the run rate forward with attacking batting.
Winning the toss, ACES skipper Robbie O’Donnell understandably chose to bat on a flat looking deck. Openers Sean Solia and Will O’Donnell started patiently, compiling 38 runs in 24 overs before the Volts pace bowlers struck, removing both openers plus Robbie O’Donnell and Mark Chapman in quick succession.
George Worker and Ben Horne staged a small, albeit slow recovery before Worker was dismissed for 39. Recalled allrounder Simon Keene then combined with Horne to lift the ACES, taking them through to stumps unscathed with a superb partnership.
At the end of day one the fortunes had flipped with the ACES reaching stumps at the relatively comfortable position of 264/5 with Horne unbeaten of 97, three short of a third first class century and Keene on 63.
The next morning Keene was dismissed for 68, his highest first class score, while Horne marched on to his century, eventually being dismissed for 137. The aggressive approach of the ACES lower order lifted the team to 351/9 before the declaration came, crucially netting the maximum batting points possible while denying the Volts the full 10 wickets.
The Volts innings didn’t start well for the home team with their skipper Hamish Rutherfold being run out from a nice piece of fielding from Keene.
Their batters settled into a rhythm on a deck without many demons but also preventing free-flowing cricket. Parkes, Foxcroft and Glenn Phillips all hit fifties but crucially, all were dismissed by Adi Ashok, who showed once again his immense talent, dismissing three set batters who didn’t look like getting out.
His dismissal of Foxcroft was particularly special, a beautiful drifting indipper which pitched and turned sharply to take the batters edge, the catch then snaffled by Will O’Donnell at first slip.
From there it was the Dale Phillips show. His century guided the Volts into the lead as the ACES were unable to extract the turn that they were hoping for from the surface. Somerville, Ashok and Delport toiled away valiantly with little reward.
Towards the end of day three, with the lead already achieved, the Volts loosened their approach, allowing for quicker runs but also giving up chances. No other than Ben Horne benefitted from this as he grabbed his first wicket for the ACES off a rank full toss.
Day four started with a rain delay, further dented the faint chances of a result. Otago wisely declared their innings at 453/9 and had a crack at the ACES top order, hoping for extract 10 wickets in less than two sessions.
After the early loss of Will O’Donnell, the top remained resolute, ensuring no such collapse was possible. Chapman gobbled up some free runs with his typically aggressive approach.
They strolled to 116/1 before both teams decided that no further play was necessary.
It was a relatively dull match in the end which is no indictment on either of the teams as the pitch clearly didn’t allow for fast cricket. A result could have pushed the ACES or Volts up the leaderboard but they will have to make do with a handful of points from their batting efforts.
The ACES remain bottom of the table though a win from their upcoming match against Norther Districts will push them up the table. Hope is not lost, but a draw did not help the cause.
Auckland ACES 351/9 dec. (Ben Horne 137, Simon Keene 68) & 116/1 (Mark Chapman 61*) drew with Otago 454/9 dec. (Dale Phillips 127, Glenn Phillips 67)