Watling guides Northern to State Shield Final
BJ Watling hit the fourth one-day century of a fledgling career today to guarantee the State Northern Knights hosting rights for the State Shield cricket final.
The 23-year-old right-hander crafted a fine unbeaten 113 as Northern scored 263 for three to thump the State Auckland Aces by seven wickets with 5.3 overs to spare at Eden Park Outer Oval in Auckland.
The result lifted his team to 29 points, leaving them assured of a home final on Saturday 31 January irrespective of the result of their last round robin game against Canterbury in Hamilton on Sunday.
Watling was the standout, improving his aggregate in the competition this summer to 469 runs at an average of 78 and moved into third place in the overall State Shield MVP rankings.
He was in imperious form today, facing deliveries and striking 11 fours and one six.
He rushed to three figures, raising the milestone by hitting international fast bowler Chris Martin for a six and four off successive balls.
Northern Districts made Auckland's 259 seem pedestrian as Michael Parlane clouted 32 off just 19 balls before Watling and skipper James Marshall collaborated for a third-wicket stand of 155 runs.
Marshall's share was 79, containing eight boundaries off 83 balls.
Earlier, Auckland's score was notable principally for the maiden domestic one-day century by Reece Young, who held his team together after a faltering start.
Now playing as a specialist batsman after relinquishing the wicketkeeping gloves to Gareth Hopkins, Young strode to the middle with Auckland at a nervy five for two in the third over.
He left 46 overs later with 119 beside his name, an outstanding innings crafted from 134 balls and featuring 11 fours and two sixes, the latter two struck after he had posted three figures.
In 63 previous one-dayers Young had managed just two half-centuries with a best of 68. He went well beyond that today and for that Auckland should feel eternally thankful.
Without Young they would have been in the mire. Only three other players bettered 15, with opener Tim McIntosh struggling with his timing to make 30 off 59 balls, while Rob Nicol made a quick 34 and Hopkins contributed 29.
The Northern Districts bowlers kept the Aucklanders honest, conceding just two extras in the entire 50 overs.
That sort of attention to detail gives some hint to why they top of competition standings heading into the final round robin on Sunday.
International seamer Tim Southee was the most impressive, taking three for 46 off his 10 overs while Brent Arnel collected three for 47 and Bradley Scott three for 55.
Fifth-placed Auckland have no chance of making the top-three playoff ahead of their last match against Central Districts in New Plymouth on Sunday.