A white ball season doesn’t go by without at least one brilliant Andy Ellis caught & bowled, but the Kings’ captain’s stinging, one-handed dive to dismiss Aces counterpart Rob Nicol wasn’t enough to stop his men going down at Hagley Oval.
Nicol’s early exit at 18/1 was handy as the Kings tried to defend their 133 for six, but the Aces again showed they have an embarrassment of riches as their young stars again stepped up to make the most of their chances before a bunch of BLACKCAPS return.
Nicol’s young opening partner Glenn Phillips had already been called into the Aces’ Ford Trophy set-up a couple of seasons ago, promoted even before he’d been picked for last year’s ICC U19 World Cup — such are his raps as an emerging, explosive top order weapon. Now, in his second T20, he has back-to-back half centuries, and combined superbly with a slashing Jeet Raval (44 off 35) as the marriage of raw power and slick finesse saw them boss the chase right through to the 17th over.
It was looking comfortable for the Aces, but a flurry of three late wickets raised the Kings’ hopes that, with a couple of tight death overs, they might just shut out the Aucks after all. Nine runs were needed off the final two overs with Mark Chapman and Sean Solia suddenly at the crease, and Solia was soon gone next over. But Chapman and Ben Horne kept it going, Horne punching a four for the winning runs in a six-wicket victory, with an over to spare in the end.
It was a gutting loss for the still winless Kings in front of a wonderful purple-wigged crowd at their castle. Gutting for Tom Latham, who should have been a match for Phillips but was run out on 22 after he and surprise opener Cam Fletcher fatally looked to run a second off a fielding fumble. One for the ‘hate it when that happens’ files!
Fletcher’s contribution was superb, his run-a-ball 43 underpinning his side’s hopes after Ellis has taken the toss and chance to bat first and he’d fended off the hottest heat generated by the star pace attack of Mitch McClenaghan and Tymal Mills. But it was again young gun Mark Chapman (3-22) ripping it up for the Aces, nibbling away at the top/middle order to have the Kings 77/3 in the 13th over.
Fletcher became his third victim, and while Henry Nicholls quickly got going with a six off McClenaghan, Nicholls, too, would lose partners too quickly as he held up the total on his own with an unbeaten 39 off just 27 balls.
It just wasn’t enough on the board against the unstoppable Aces, whose win pushed them two points ahead of the Stags into top slot on the table.
Next up is the Volts-Knights clash in Dunedin this Wednesday, while the Kings will be back in action on Thursday at 4.10pm at Hagley Oval looking to get on the board against the Firebirds.
CATCH OF THE MATCH
No contest: Andy Ellis is a legend off his own bowling.