The Plunket Shield match between the Auckland Aces and Wellington Firebirds ended in a draw, with persistent rain at Eden Park Outer Oval forcing the final day to be abandoned.
It was a disappointing finish to what had shaped up to be an exciting finish to the match, with Wellington 133 behind the Aces first innings total and the home side needing eight more wickets for victory.
Considering the entertainment the match had provided up until the fourth day, a glittering finish was almost expected. Sadly though, the drizzle ruined the day.
It may well have been the Firebirds saviour, but following on from a good start yesterday and Jesse Ryder still to come in, nothing was assured.
The match will be remembered for by all who witnessed it because of one man – Colin Munro. His unbeaten double century on day three would have to go down as one of the most spectacular innings in First-Class history.
If it weren’t for the weather, it may well have led his side to victory…
Munro’s dazzling double puts Auckland on top
Colin Munro crushed an unbeaten 269 from 252 deliveries to give the Auckland Aces every chance of beating the Wellington Firebirds at Eden Part Outer Oval tomorrow.
Auckland posted a mammoth 658 for nine declared to gain a 282 run first-innings lead. The Firebirds in reply have worked their way to 145 for two, still 133 runs behind the Aces.
Michael Papps made it clear he wanted to make up the deficit quickly and cracked seven fours and a six on his way to 38. His innings came to an end in the 12th over though, when Kyle Mills had him trapped lbw.
Josh Brodie remained and collaborated with Stephen Murdoch to put on 78 for the second wicket. Five overs before the end of play though disaster struck when Bruce Martin had Murdoch caught on 36.
It leaves a lot of pressure on Brodie tomorrow, who resumes unbeaten on 60 and is joined by Grant Elliot (6) to try hang on to the match.
The situation the Firebirds find themselves in derives from a mammoth 377 sixth wicket partnership between Munro and Craig Cachopa.
The pair were simply unstoppable and brought up a number of individual accolades along the way.
Resuming on 85 from yesterday, Cachopa made quick work of the final 15 runs to bring up a well-deserved century off 186 balls. Meanwhile Munro, who had already brought up his ton yesterday, was becoming more and more aggressive and the run-rate began to surge.
Both players brought up 150 and took their side past 500 to ensure they would go into the second innings with a substantial lead.
After nearly six hours at the crease, Cachopa was eventually dismissed on 166, with 24 fours and a six highlighting the innings. It ended what had been a truly tremendous partnership.
The departure of Cachopa though didn’t faze Munro though and the fireworks continued. The 25 year-old made sure the match would be memorable by bringing up his maiden double-century. It was an innings studded with 23 fours and eight sixes.
The tail began to fall round him, but the explosive shots kept coming. The Firebirds only option was to attack the other end, but Munro’s presence was constantly felt.
After 147.5 overs the decision was made to declare, ending Munro’s destruction. He struck an unbelievable 14 maximums overall and ended with a strike rate of over 100.
It wasn’t a fun day to be in the field, but Mark Gillespie was the best of the Firebirds’ bowlers and finished with figures of four for 166 from 40 overs.
The day belonged to Munro, who showed that the longer form of the game is far from boring. He’ll be aiming to contribute with the ball tomorrow, as the Aces search for eight more wickets for victory.
Day two: Aces in powerful position
The Auckland Aces are in complete control at Eden Park Outer Oval, having surpassed the Wellington Firebirds total with five wickets in hand.
Chasing 380, Colin Munro scorched his second century of the season to drive the Aces to 381 for five at stumps, give the home side a great opportunity to establish a big lead.
Just about everyone made a contribution for the Aces, with the opening pair of Lou Vincent (38) and Tim McIntosh (31) kicking things off with stand of 72 for the first wicket.
Both departed in the space of five balls to bring Reece Young (43) and Colin de Grandhomme (46) to the crease. They looked comfortable, but failed to push on as de Grandhomme was caught and Young run out.
The dismissal of captain Gareth Hopkins (8) not long after left the Aces in quite a predicament at 174 for five. The Firebirds would have been eyeing a first-innings lead, but Munro and Craig Cachopa were not so obliging.
The pair put on an unbeaten 206 for the sixth wicket and in doing so took the game away from the Firebirds’ grasp.
Munro bludgeoned 14 fours and five sixes on his way to 122 not out and brought up his triple figures off 110 balls. It was a fantastic display of batting and he’ll look to continue adding to those highlights tomorrow.
Alongside him for the journey was Craig Cachopa, who played with a level head to reach an unbeaten 74 from 145 balls at day’s end. One would imagine that he will be aiming to bring up his own milestone tomorrow.
The current pairs’ heroics represented a tough afternoon in the field for the Firebirds, who will be intent on limiting the Aces lead as much as possible tomorrow.
Dane Hutchinson and Scott Kuggeleijn will be hopeful of adding to their current tallies of two wickets apiece.
Day one: Ronchi century leads Firebirds
The Wellington Firebirds finished day one of their Plunket Shield match against the Auckland Aces all out for 380, with a century from Luke Ronchi the highlight of the innings.
The visitors fought hard at Eden Park Outer Oval, with Ronchi’s 127 and 72 from Jesse Ryder providing the bulk of the runs for the Firebirds.
It had been a shaky start though, with Josh Brodie and recent double-centurion Michael Papps both falling cheaply.
Murdoch (25) and Ryder calmed things down nicely with a third wicket partnership worth 92, before Murdoch edged one from Mitchell McClenaghan in the 33rd over.
Ryder played some glorious shots and raced to 72 off 66 balls, slamming 11 fours and a six. Just as the Aces bowling attack looked like it was in for a torrid day, McClenaghan once again broke through to dismiss the 28 year-old.
Little did they know their celebrations would be short lived, as a new tormentor carried on where Ryder had left off.
Ronchi crunched 17 fours a six on the way to his century and brought up the milestone off just 106 balls. It was a fine display from the Australian player, who made sure the day belonged to the Firebirds.
There was more to come as well, as Chris Woakes (47), Harry Boam (31) and Mark Gillespie (22) all continued to frustrate the Aces’ bowling attack.
After 95.2 overs the Firebirds innings came to a close, but they’d have been pleased to have put the runs on the board.
McClenaghan was a force with the ball and finished with figures of four for 90 off 21 overs. Michael Bates and Colin Munro chimed in as well with two wickets apiece.
The Aces had to face one over from Mark Gillespie at the end of the day, with Tim McIntosh seeing out the over with no runs coming from it.