Cricket: Big-hitters promise cracking final

By David Leggat

Auckland favoured but Canterbury have Peter Fulton back

Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins.  Photo / Getty Images
Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins. Photo / Getty Images

Auckland have had a rattling one-day championship campaign, but will be no more than slight favourites in tomorrow's final against Canterbury at Eden Park.

They qualified top, have won six of their nine games - one was abandoned - and have beaten Canterbury in the three forms of the game six out of seven times this season, the only slip-up being a Plunket Shield belting in Christchurch last month.

Even so, Auckland aren't taking any liberties. They rate Canterbury and nestled in the back of their collective minds is the hurt of last season's Ford Trophy final in New Plymouth, aka Michael Mason's Match.

The former New Zealand seamer, in his last appearance for Central Districts, ripped the game away from Auckland with one ball to spare, roaring to 41 not out off 19 balls, sharing a rollicking 60-run stand off 27 balls with Marty Kain to give himself a marvellous finale and shatter Auckland's spirits.

"That's still pretty raw and the guys want to put that right," Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins said.

"Previous form and everything in the last three weeks doesn't matter. This is all we're focusing on.

"We always respect Canterbury's ability, they're a good, solid allround team and you add Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie to the batting it certainly strengthens them."

Fulton, Brownlie and Auckland's spinner Bruce Martin are back from test duties for the final on the outer oval, which is the last act in the domestic season.

It has been a compact tournament, with piles of runs as batsmen have cashed in on bone-dry grounds and taken advantage of having one less fielder outside the 27m circle.

No batting side has been more prolific than Auckland. Of the 20 centuries scored in the trophy's 28 games, Auckland got eight - two apiece for Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro and Hopkins, one each for Colin de Grandhomme and Craig Cachopa. Canterbury got three, to Rob Nicol, George Worker and Brad Cachopa.

Auckland's lowest total in their three against Canterbury this season is 270. Twice they've topped 300.

Canterbury's promising seamer Matt Henry capped a fine return from injury with a table-topping 22 wickets at just 11.8, including six for 45 when the teams enjoyed a 699-run splurge on the outer oval on March 6.

Left armer Ryan McCone is third on that list with 17 at 21.1.

Auckland have experience in their attack in international pair Kyle Mills (18 wickets at 16.8) and Chris Martin (12 at 23.1) backed by useful allrounders and spinners.

There's no doubt Canterbury's batting will be stronger than earlier in the competition, and they have competitive and capable bowlers.

Auckland failed to make the HRV Cup final, when they were chasing a third straight trip to the Champions League and they had a poor Plunket Shield campaign.

"This presents an opportunity to put right some of the things we could have done better during the season," Hopkins said.

"We're trucking along nicely but it's a one-off game and we've got to perform pretty well to get the best of the Cantabs."

A cracking, high-scoring final is in prospect.

Score card

Last five one-day finals

2011-12: Central Districts beat Auckland 2 wickets, New Plymouth

2010-11: Auckland beat Canterbury 6 runs, Christchurch

2009-10: ND beat Auckland 21 runs, Colin Maiden Park

2008-09: Northern Districts beat Otago 49 runs, Hamilton

2007-08: Otago beat Auckland 7 wickets, Eden ParkAuckland v CanterburyEden Park outer oval

10.30am tomorrow

Auckland: from Gareth Hopkins (c), Anaru Kitchen, Tim McIntosh, Craig Cachopa, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Dusan Hakaraia, Donovan Grobbelaar, Kyle Mills, Bruce Martin, Michael Bates, Bhupinder Singh, Chris Martin.

Canterbury: from Andrew Ellis (c), Peter Fulton, George Worker, Rob Nicol, Dean Brownlie, Tom Latham, Shanan Stewart, Henry Nicholls, Logan van Beek, Matt Henry, Ronnie Hira, Hamish Bennett, Ryan McCone.

- NZ Herald

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