Cricket: Sinclair's sword slices, dices Aces

By Anendra Singh

Having fronted up when the chips were down and the coaching stable left seething after a rash of gut-wrenching losses, it was only befitting one man should translate the warm fuzzies of only the second victory this summer last night.

That is, the man who walks the talk. A man who in the blink of an eye will chastise himself if he's had a shocker. A man who wouldn't have needed a photo in this article because anyone who knows anything about cricket, not only in Hawke's Bay but in the country, will without doubt know who he is.

Yes, that bloke is no other than Mathew Sinclair, the opening batsman who top-scored with 71 runs from 52 balls as the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags thumped the Auckland Aces by seven wickets at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, yesterday.

But, going hard out for one more run to put the Aces out of their misery, Sinclair was caught shy as bowler Michael Bates ran him out before captain Kieran Noema-Barnett deftly played a block shot to third man for a single with three balls to spare for the win.

"He's [Sinclair] busy at the mo," said assistant coach Lance Hamilton in his text message.

Enter No4 batsman/wicketkeeper Ben Smith, 59 not out from 31 balls and boasting a strike rate of 190 per cent to Sinclair's 136 per cent as the pair forged a 100-run third-wicket partnership.

"The win was definitely a long time coming and today we all went out to have fun and we enjoyed ourselves," Smith said as the Alan Hunt-coached CD savour a record nine victories on the trot at Pukekura Park.

"It's a beautiful park, it has a good crowd every time and it has a decent wicket with, obviously, smaller boundaries."

With an over to get a run, surely it was a stroll through the park for a win but a dot ball and a wicket from Bates would have had the most ardent of fans second-guessing in a 2012-13 summer of horror in which the Stags face the prospect of finishing last.

Last night's win will put them on equal points with the Canterbury Wizards but the threat of becoming wooden-spooners isn't over yet with a game against the table-topping Otago Volts on Sunday from 4pm at Pukekura Park and away to the Aces on Tuesday next week.

"We're not even thinking about other results, We're just going to go out to play ball by ball and everything will just take care of itself if we do that," Smith said as they ended Auckland's hopes of qualifying for the play-offs, with the Northern Districts Knights and the Wellington Firebirds perched eight points above them with two games in hand.

The Stags restricted the visitors yesterday to 181-6 in 20 overs after the Aucklanders' skipper, Gareth Hopkins, won the toss and padded up.

Colin de Grandhomme (55 off 24), hitting three sixes in a row in the 11th over, and Craig Cachopa (49 of 33) did the damage in the middle order.

The Stags bowlers were frugal, with opener Kyle Jarvis bleeding only eight runs from three overs before finishing wicket-less for 25 at the death.

Seamers Bevan Small and Andrew Lamb took two scalps each but went for 11.5 and 9.3 runs an over, respectively.

In reply, CD needed 19 runs from the final two overs but, thanks to Sinclair, ended up doing it easily with a flurry of late boundaries.

If Roneel Hira had fortuitously scuppered Sinclair and Smith's plan in the three-wicket loss to Canterbury in Nelson on January 3, yesterday the pair were on fire, with the young gun lauding the veteran's experience and nous and pleased with his own timing.

Opener Jamie How, whose wife gave birth to daughter Ruby three days ago, added 28 from 20 balls before driving back to Palmerston North after the game.

Smith said CD had been playing at 90 per cent but yesterday it came together 100 per cent to show they could have been the best team in the competition.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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