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Auckland Aces put champions on back foot

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

While fire raged at SKY CITY's Convention Centre just 15 minutes away, the Auckland Aces were - obliviously - putting the heat on at Eden Park Outer Oval on day two of the Plunket Shield 2019/20 championship.

When rain returned in the last session shortly before 6pm, when 17 overs still remained in an extended day's play, the Stags were firmly on the back foot at 144 for eight, still trailing on the first innings by 66 - the same figure that the mercurial Stags batsman Brad Schmulian found himself sitting on as the weather closed in, play abandoned shortly afterwards on the second day.

Earlier, after a shower-delayed start, the Stags had nabbed two quick wickets to net the maximum four bowling bonus points, wicket maidens from pace youngster Willem Ludick removing both Kyle Jamieson and Matt McEwan in the first hour, in changeable, blustery conditions.

McEwan's three runs were enough to push the boisterous paceman past the long-awaited 1000 first-class career milestone that had been hovering in the ether since last season. However, at 199/9, the Aces' last pair of Will Somerville and Jamie Brown still had the important task of finding one more run to secure the first Aces batting bonus.

They duly did so, but their resistance was quashed shortly afterwards as Ben Wheeler finally picked up a wicket to dismiss the Aces for 210.

The Stags promptly lost an early wicket in reply, George Worker becoming Kyle Jamieson's maiden victim for his new side the Aces; and another shortly after lunch as Ben Smith departed caught behind off McEwan to usher in Ross Taylor at 36 for two.

McEwan (3-40) struck again in the same over to remove captain Greg Hay, clipping his off stump on 19 for the first bowling bonus. Then followed another big blow to the champions with the loss of Taylor on just 2. Three wickets in 11 balls, and a feather in the dark blue cap for Jamie Brown who picked up Taylor caught at second slip.

The Stags needed a substantial partnership, and by tea they were still working on it at 104 for five. Brown meanwhile had dislodged Dane Cleaver to break a 47-run stand with Schmulian who remained 30 not out at tea.

The pair had been subjected to a fiery spell from Jamieson in particular before the introduction of nagging pair Brown (2-23) and a Will Somerville (2-25). With Schmulian (66-) the last recognised batsman in the side, the hosts are firmly on the ascendant with the ball, having sustained good pressure throughout the afternoon, bar the odd dropped chance.

PRESSURE ON ND AT HAGLEY OVAL

After finally dismissing their hosts for 372, it was the stellar ND side's turn to power up a total at Hagley Oval today. It didn't go quite to plan.

Overnight Canterbury batsman Cam Fletcher had earlier been left stranded on 49 after Neil Wagner and Mitch Santner chipped out the tail in the morning session - albeit with a feisty resistance to the tune of 31 runs in nearly an hour and a half from Canterbury number 10 Will Williams.

It was a career best with the bat from the tailender that saw him put on a 70-run stand for the ninth wicket with the dependable Fletcher.

However, by lunch, the Cantabrians were in the field and ND was heading in to the break one wicket down after quick Ed Nuttall had yorked Daniel Flynn.

That presented the next challenge - dislodging Kane Williamson, who was yet to get off the mark at the break. Combining with Tim Seifert, the BLACKCAPS skipper's stay would last just 45 minutes, however, before Matt Henry and Tom Latham combined to have him caught at second slip.

From 59 for two, a patient Seifert continued to give ND some amorphous hope to hold onto of hauling in Canterbury's 390, still there as the visitors reached 150. But by now they were three down, with the quick loss of BJ Watling and the added discomfort of Dean Brownlie retiring on 16.

By stumps, Canterbury still held a lead of 234, Seifert heading in unbeaten on 85 for the night.

CAREER BEST 7-FA FOR OTAGO VOLTS CAPTAIN DUFFY

Biting back with the ball in a devastating middle session on the second afternoon at the Basin Reserve, Otago Volts captain Jacob Duffy snared an outstanding first-class career-best seven for 89.

The captain's sorely needed effort ensured the Firebirds lost their last six first innings wickets for just 67 runs (and three of the bigger wickets, Devon Conway, Jimmy Neesham and Logan van Beek, for just five runs) - handing the Volts the maximum bowling bonuses.

It still wasn't enough to stop the Firebirds from pocketing a 173-run first innings lead, however, the fightback had the Volts openers padding up at tea, and firing up for a big restitutional second innings.

Earlier, the home top order had been making sterling progress.

Rachin Ravindra continued on from overnight to reach 76, while the prolific Devon Conway was looking good for the first Firebirds hundred of the summer - until he shouldered arms to Duffy on 96 and discovered his off-pole lying on the turf.

The pair had taken their side to 151 for two. Even at 152 for two - with the quick loss of Michael Bracewell in the following over, it was a solid enough start.

Tom Blundell set to work on a positive half century and, at 82 off 84 balls, was looking likely to get to triple figures in good time. When he was trapped by Duffy, it was arguably the Volts captain's key wicket - setting the dramatic tailspin in motion, en route to Duffy's eighth bag.

The Volts needed a sound start to their second dig on a testing surface, and they didn't get it. Hamish Rutherford was lost at 29 for one, while fellow opener Cam Hawkins was forced to retire (not out) on eight.

Debutant Dale Phillips then fell cheaply again, bringing Neil Broom and Nick Kelly together at 37 for two. It had been an interesting day for Kelly who earned himself a line in next year's New Zealand Cricket Almanack with a spell of 0.0-0-12-0 after delivering two high full tosses.

Round One | Day Two

Tuesday 22 October

At Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland

AUCKLAND ACES v CENTRAL STAGS

TOSS: Central Stags who elected to bowl

Close of play: Auckland Aces 210 all out, Central Stags 144/8 first innings trailing by 66 runs

Bonus points (progress): Stags 4 bowling, Aces 1 batting, Aces 3 bowling

Scorecard: https://scoring.nzc.nz/livescoring/match13b81b0e-9675-4031-98de-67bb65b7da2a/scorecard.aspx

At the Basin Reserve, Wellington

WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS v OTAGO VOLTS

TOSS: Wellington Firebirds who elected to bowl

Close of play: Wellington Firebirds 372 all out first innings, Otago Volts 62/2 second innings trailing by 111 runs

Bonus points (completed): Firebirds 4 bowling, Volts 0 batting, Firebirds 4 batting, Volts 4 bowling.

Scores: https://scoring.nzc.nz/livescoring/match603f9495-da7b-47a9-88a7-e4599df711ef/scorecard.aspx

At Hagley Oval, Christchurch

CANTERBURY v NORTHERN DISTRICTS

TOSS: Canterbury who elected to bat

Close of play: Canterbury 372 all out, ND 156/3 (first innings) trailing by 234 runs

Bonus points (progress): Canterbury 4 batting, Northern Districts 3 bowling, Canterbury 1 bowling

Scores: https://scoring.nzc.nz/livescoring/match037851eb-7747-43c2-a618-d242d3444fbd/scorecard.aspx

- NOTE: Bonus points are not added to the points table until the result of each match

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