Auckland chase down mammoth total for victory
"We might have been better off playing on Sandringham Road."
That was the reaction from Northern Knights coach James Pamment after his side couldn't stop the Auckland Aces successfully chasing down 409 in the fourth innings to win their fifth round Plunket Shield match.
Three declarations set up the target and the game eventually produced 1521 runs while just 17 wickets fell over the four-day encounter, at an average of 89.47.
"It was the flattest piece of dirt I've ever seen in NZ cricket," Pamment said.
So good was the batting track that Auckland got home with six wickets and 8.4 overs to spare.
It was the highest total Northern Districts have conceded in a fourth innings in the association's history, surpassing the 368 Canterbury made in Rangiora two seasons ago.
It was also the second-highest fourth innings total in Auckland's long history - only the 458 they compiled against Wellington at the Basin Reserve in the 1927/28 season was greater.
Auckland resumed their second innings yesterday at 23 without loss, needing another 386 runs for victory with a minimum of 97 overs to be bowled.
Aces opener Martin Guptill, recently recalled to the New Zealand one-day side for the series starting against the West Indies on Boxing Day, backed up his first innings of 161 not out by making 91 off 160 balls in the chase.
Veteran left-hander Tim McIntosh struck 93 from 131 deliveries to maintain the impetus before hard-hitting all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme did the rest.
The former Black Caps limited-overs player plundered an unbeaten 102, made from just 89 deliveries, featuring 16 fours and a six, while former New Zealand wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins contributed a more sedate 44 off 59 balls.
"We had to give ourselves a chance to win," Pamment said.
"They played really well and we couldn't eke out any opportunities."
Pamment said his side tried to make it difficult for Auckland to score, setting straight fields so the hosts might play across the line.
"But they were good enough to sit on us and wait for errors and accumulate.
"I thought we were very disciplined for the first hour - Graeme Aldridge and Scott Kuggeleijn were outstanding. But we couldn't back that up with our change bowlers or find something in the surface.
"It didn't spin, it didn't reverse swing - so we were always fighting a bit of a losing battle. Kudos to them, they applied themselves with good dedication.
The top-of-the-table clash between the Canterbury Wizards and Wellington Firebirds ended early in a draw, with Wellington opener Michael Papps unbeaten on 103 in their second innings, while the Otago Volts and Central Districts also drew their game in Dunedin.
The first-class competition now takes a break until late January, with the Twenty20 competition resuming.
The Knights, who lead the table with 12 points from four matches, will meet the Central Stags in Nelson on Friday.
NORTHERN KNIGHTS First Innings 461- 4 dec
AUCKLAND ACES First Innings 352-4 dec
NORTHERN KNIGHTS Second Innings 299-5 dec
AUCKLAND ACES Second Innings (target: 409 runs)
JA Raval c DR Flynn b DJ Mitchell 55
MJ Guptill c DR Flynn b AP Devcich 91
TG McIntosh c CD Fletcher b JJ Boult 93
C Munro lbw b AP Devcich 17
C de Grandhomme not out 102
GJ Hopkins not out 44
Extras (lb 3, wd 1, nb 3) 7
Total (for 4 wickets, 93.2 overs) 409
Fall: 1-98 (JA Raval, 30.2), 2-232 (MJ Guptill, 63.1), 3-246 (TG McIntosh, 66.4), 4-265 (C Munro, 71.3)
Bowling: SC Kuggeleijn 16-4-68-0, GW Aldridge 14-2-65-0, JJ Boult 32-1-128-1 (1w, JD Baker 9-1-40-0, DJ Mitchell 6-1-36-1, AP Devcich 16.2-2-69-2 (3nb)
Auckland Aces win by six wickets.