Volts go down in Grand Final nailbiter17 Feb 2020
To begin with, everything seemed to be going right for the Otago Volts as they took on a strong Auckland Aces squad in the big dance at Eden Park Outer Oval.
The Aces had all their big guns back - Marty Guptill back to partner with Colin Munro at the top, Mark Chapman, new BLACKCAPS star Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Phillips - and not to mention Lockie Ferguson, Jeet Raval and a squad so jam-packed with talent that regular captain Craig Cachopa was named as 13th man with Robbie O'Donnell taking on the duties again.
But it was Otago Volts captain Jacob Duffy who won the toss on a flat deck, batting on an overcast but warm Eden Park mid-February Sunday.
Young left-armer Ben Lister went into the match for the Aces as the season's top wicket-taker and Hamish Rutherford accorded him some respect in a watchful first over. But the boundaries immediately began to flow from his bat against new-ball partner Jamieson.
By the fifth over Rutherford was in, and blasting his first six off Lister in an over that cost 16: the Volts 50 would be up on the board in no time as the veteran left-hander and Mitch Renwick got their side up and off to a fast start.
Until, that is, speed man Lockie Ferguson came on in the seventh over. Non-striker Renwick was run out by a brilliant running side-on throw from Colin Munro as Renwick tried to scramble a single. Just two balls later, Ferguson dug it in and the bouncer appeared to glance hard off Rutherford's glove into the badge of his helmet.
The blow was enough to put Rutherford out for the rest of the match: after failing a concussion test, he was substituted by Matt Bacon in the order - a brutal end to his power start that had produced 36 runs off just 25 balls.
Neil Broom as always was a capable replacement but would not be permitted to kick on: caught on 39 off Mark Chapman in the 26th over, albeit with the Volts still tracking nicely at 150 for three.
However, they did forget to pack that lucky charm.
Nick Kelly had suffered a golden duck against Jamieson, leaving Dean Foxcroft to fashion a 48-run stand for the fourth with Broom - but there would be a second lengthy disruption in the middle after a hard collision between Glenn Phillips and Foxcroft felled the batsman who had copped it in the soft corner of the neck.
The solidly built Foxcroft eventually got to his feet, but left the field retired - not out, to recuperate at... you guessed it, 111/2 in the 18th over.
Both disruptions had come just as key partnerships were starting to blossom, and it hurt the Volts' momentum - even though Foxcroft, unlike the luckless Rutherford, was later able to resume his innings.
Phillips was to play a pivotal role for the Aces.
After Chapman had claimed the massive wicket of Broom, the golden arm came on and picked up a wicket with just his fourth ball.
He then outfoxed Nathan Smith - stumped cheaply in the 31st, before adding Michael Rippon caught behind cheaply as well, for his career-best figures of 3-40 off eight.
Having also held the stinging grab at point that dismissed Broom, and later ticking past his 1000th List A run, he was thoroughly enjoying his Grand Final day out in the park.
Meanwhile, Foxcroft had resumed his knock. The match situation was now tempered by wickets, however, and he needed to re-establish.
After he fell on 42 (51 balls) at 178 for six, the Volts were under pressure to post a defendable target.
The run rate dipped as the Volts attempted to regather some composure, and set themselves up to bat out their 50 to give themselves their best chance.
The experience of Anaru Kitchen against his old team came to the fore. He teed off magnificently into the service station across the road as they began to cause the Aces some frowns and frustration, the hosts having been keen to finish the job quickly.
Kitchen would eventually be skittled at the death by Ferguson, but his 54-ball 60 was invaluable, sharing a 58-run stand with his captain Duffy who chipped in a run-a-ball 24.
They had helped get their side up to a total of 283, a runout in the 49th stopping the scorecard with two balls to go.
THE CHASE IS ON!
The Aces now knew they needed just a tad under a run a ball to claim the title they last won two seasons ago - and, at Eden Park Outer Oval, that shouldn't have daunted their star-studded cast of top order batsmen.
However, the early fall of both Martin Guptill and Jeet Raval had the visitors elated.
Duffy had struck the massive initial blow with Guptill caught second ball of the innings by Foxcroft.
The ever threatening Colin Munro remained, of course - and the powerful striker would treat the home supporters to a magnifcent bomb show until Duffy eventually played party pooper again.
It was a lengthy wait. Munro struck seven sixes and 12 boundaries in his ninth List A century as he punched 104 off just 60 balls.
He wasn't fussy as to whom he pelted them off, but when Duffy brought himself back into the attack in the 21st over, he finally had Munro's massive wicket, first ball of his spell.
Despite the explosiveness, at 149 for four it was a slightly uncomfortable blip for the Aces as Duffy conceded just a single off the rest of the over, before Michael Rippon followed suit and kept things tight.
They built pressure for a few overs and crucially disrupted the flow of runs.
When O'Donnell was sharply run out in the 27th, the Aces still needed 111 runs at just under five.
A few more tight overs, a few more wickets would now make things interesting indeed, Chapman and Ben Horne left in charge in the middle for the hosts.
They duly picked off a boundary per over as the heat of the day began to fade, the clock ticking past 5.30pm with 95 runs still be found off the last 20 overs.
While the required run rate never threatened to deny the Aces the title, the loss of wickets was a different story.
The Volts kept fighting back in a tense finish, and got the hosts eight down. Nathan Smith hit his mark with a wicket maiden in the 41st, whilst the Aces still needing 31 runs.
Crucially, Mark Chapman remained at the crease.
Calmly sharing the strike with Lister, he pelted a six off Matt Bacon's 42nd to ease the pressure. Then, after seeing off another tight over from Smith, piled into Dean Foxcroft's 44th. Whilst Foxcroft dotted down for his first two deliveries, back to back sixes off the next two balls all but sealed the deal.
Another dot, then Chapman (84* off 78) swung hard again and as the ball sailed beyond the bank for his fourth six, the Aces had won their second Ford Trophy title in the space of three seasons - and this time, at home sweet home.