Wizards work hard before Aces hold out for draw

A maiden First-Class century to a young player unafraid of hard graft did not find the ultimate reward as the Canterbury Wizards and Auckland Aces drew their Plunket Shield match at Rangiora today.

The final day of the four-day fixture will be remembered for the unbeaten 120 scored by opener George Worker in just his second outing for the Wizards.

It marked the first time the 22-year-old left-hander has topped three figures at First-Class level. After making 30 appearances for the Central Stags, Worker picked up his kit bag and headed to Christchurch in the off-season and today’s performance vindicates his decision to head south.

From his perspective the only thing missing was a result in the Wizards’ favour after the Aces held out for a draw on MainPower Oval, the match ending early with the visitors on 196 for four.

Peter Fulton’s second innings declaration at 243 for nine left the northerners a challenging chase of 354 in 73 overs but the early loss of international Martin Guptill put paid to any plans to give the target a shake.

The fluent Guptill advanced quickly to 27 off 30 balls but fell to a catch by Dean Brownlie off the bowling of seamer Andrew Ellis.

The Aces then eyed a draw as their only realistic goal, something they accomplished after the top order went into their shells.

Guptill’s opening partner Tim McIntosh took two hours to reach 27 and Andrew de Boorder 111 minutes to make 25 and the fact neither pushed on left too little time to have a serious look at a distant target.

At 92 for four the Aces were very vulnerable but Colin de Grandhomme and wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins made the game safe with an unbroken partnership of 104.

Hopkins took the opportunity to make 63 off72 balls, studding his stay with 11 fours, while de Grandhomme was 43 not out.

Earlier, Worker resumed on 74 with the Wizards on 178 for five, but the hosts stalled this morning as they put on just another 65 runs for the loss of four wickets in 25 overs.

Worker at least succeeded in advancing to his maiden century, the lone standout in an innings where the next highest score was the 35 contributed by Fulton yesterday.

And the new Wizards recruit remained there unconquered at the end, having faced 229 deliveries in 318 minutes, with 13 fours and one six.

The highly regard Aces bowling attack performed well as a unit after seamer Kyle Mills was restricted to just six overs.

Veteran Chris Martin took two for 37 off 17 overs, Bhupinder Singh two for 94 off 26 and Bruce Martin two for 72 off 21.

Day 3: Runchase in offing at Rangiora

A tantalising last day runchase is in store when the Plunket Shield match between the Canterbury Wizards and Auckland Aces reaches a climax at Rangiora tomorrow.

The Wizards walked off MainPower Oval at stumps today holding an overall advantage of 288 runs with five second innings wickets still intact.

They reached the close on 178 for five with opener George Worker on 74 and in sight of his maiden First-Class century.

Worker proved that he’d watched on closely earlier as BLACKCAPS international Martin Guptill delivered a lesson in batsmanship as he scored 195 not out, carrying his bat through the Aces’ first innings of 381.

Guptill restarted his innings this morning on 121 and his side at 282 for five but immediately lost his overnight partner Colin de Grandhomme, who failed to add to the 117 he scored yesterday.

By the time tailender Chris Martin was dismissed Guptill had logged 437 minutes in the middle, faced 316 balls and struck 22 fours and two sixes.

Outside of Guptill and de Grandhomme not one Aces batsman reached 15 and six were dismissed without even reaching double figures.

Willie Lonsdale and Todd Astle were the pick of the Wizards attack, the former finishing with four for 82 off 23 overs and the latter taking three for 73 off 20.1

Day 2: Aces respond after worrying start

Willie Lonsdale built on the fine work of Dean Brownlie as the Canterbury Wizards made all the running before the Auckland Aces hit back emphatically in their Plunket Shield match at Rangiora.

The 25-year-old left-arm medium fast bowler extracted something extra from a largely unresponsive pitch at MainPower Oval to capture three quick wickets as the Aces reached the midway point of the four-day match at 282 for five in their first innings.

Centuries to Martin Guptill and Colin de Grandhomme left them 209 runs behind the Wizards’ commendable effort of 491 for seven, an imposing total built around Brownlie’s career best 171.

It could have been much worse for the Aces, who were 72 for five at one stage before allrounder  de Grandhomme walked to the middle to join international Guptill.

The two 25-year-old right-handers set about restoring some order and they did so with such success that both registered their fifth first-class century, Guptill ending the day on 121 and de Grandhomme 117.

De Grandhomme was the aggressor, reaching three figures off only 95 balls with his 14th four to complement three sixes.

Wanting time in the middle ahead of the test tour to Australia, Guptill fulfilled that brief to the letter as he spent more than four hours over his century as the pair put on an Auckland record sixth wicket stand against domestic opposition.

Their unbroken partnership of 210 surpassed the 209 produced by Adam Parore and Alex O’Dowd against Otago at Dunedin in 1991/92.

Earlier, Brownlie, who took guard this morning on 112 with the Wizards a healthy 324 for five, kept on keeping on as he made his third first-class century a particularly memorable one.

Allrounder Andrew Ellis was a fine foil for Brownlie as these two shared a stand of 116 for the sixth wicket before left-arm spinner Bruce Martin finally found the edge of Brownlie’s bat for Tim McIntosh to accept the catch.

Brownlie struck 22 fours and three sixes in a stay stretching to 325 minutes, while Ellis took the opportunity to open his arms and looked destined for his second century at this level only for skipper Peter Fulton to declare.

That left Ellis 97 not out, with 15 fours and two sixes off 119 deliveries.

Lonsdale then cut through the Aces top order as they were reduced to 30 for three after he trapped McIntosh leg before wicket for eight and dismissed Andrew de Boorder and Anaru Kitchen for first-ball and second-ball ducks respectively.

The Wizards continued to push all the right buttons as they made further inroads to have the Aces teetering at 72 for five, but the northerners finally discovered some resolve when Guptill was joined by Grandhomme.

Day 1: Brownlie shows form for Wizards

New international Dean Brownlie has transferred his test form on to the Plunket Shield stage.

Fresh from scoring a half-century on debut for the Black Caps against Zimbabwe, the Australian-born middle order batsman crafted 112 not out to help the Canterbury Wizards prosper and reach 324 for five by the close on the opening day of a second round match against the Auckland Aces.

Beginning the game with 990 first-class runs from 15 appearances, Brownlie enjoyed the batting conditions at MainPower Oval in Rangiora today, spending 250 minutes at the crease for his third first-class century as the Wizards recovered more than solidly after the cheap dismissal of opener Rob Nicol.

They put together a series of partnerships as the remainder of the specialists got in without pushing on to anything substantial until Brownlie joined forces with wicketkeeper Reece Young.

These two collaborated for a fifth wicket partnership of 171 in 167 minutes and Young was at the other end to witness Brownlie’s century, raised in style with a six off test teammate. He reached his third first-class century off 190 balls in 221 minutes, with 12 fours and two sixes.

Young departed shortly after but not before posting a fine 80 himself, a knock studded with 11 boundaries.

Earlier, opener George Worker made a composed 48 before being beaten off the pitch by Chris Martin, the inaugural winner of the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal at last week’s New Zealand Cricket awards.

As well, Shanan Stewart contributed 42 and Peter Fulton 23 before Brownlie and Young put their heads together to frustrate the Aces.

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