Cricket: Auckland hungry for more after first win of season

By David Leggat

Michael Bates of the Auckland Aces. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Bates of the Auckland Aces. Photo / Getty Images

Buoyed by their first win of the Plunket Shield season, Auckland will fancy their chances against second-bottom Wellington when they meet at Colin Maiden Park today.

Auckland, having set Northern Districts 197 to win in Hamilton last week, won by just 18 runs, with test bowler Chris Martin taking nine wickets in the match.

They still lie nine points off Wellington, and will stay last even with maximum points this week.

But their confidence should have been given a boost, even if the batting was short of what is required.

Auckland only reached 228 in their first innings thanks to seamer Michael Bates' unbeaten 69 at No 9, while captain Gareth Hopkins' 85 had plenty to do with the second-innings 259.

Auckland have made only one enforced change for the Wellington game, seamer Gareth Shaw coming in for Daryl Tuffey, who has joined the national side at the World Cup.

Auckland coach Paul Strang liked what he saw from his players at Seddon Park last week. "I was really pleased with the fight and courage that the boys showed," he said.

The crunch game of the round is in Napier where leaders Central Districts host second-placed Northern Districts.

ND squandered a big chance to go top against Auckland but they've trimmed the margin CD had over the field when the shield resumed in mid-February from 14 points to two.

Captain James Marshall and their leading fast-medium bowler, Graeme Aldridge, return after missing the Auckland game. They replace Brook Hatwell and Bradley Scott.

CD must feel as if they're treading water after their pre-Christmas bolt clear of the field but have been frustrated by both the weather and a raft of injuries. Teenage quick Adam Milne is gone for the season with a stress fracture in a shin, while bowlers Doug Bracewell (side strain), Seth Rance (ankle), Jeremy Kuru (side), Bevan Small (groin) and Mitchell McClenaghan (back) are all absent.

Canterbury host Otago at Rangiora, with both teams firmly in the title race. So it seems odd that Otago are resting the country's leading wicket taker, left arm seamer Neil Wagner.

Points after seven rounds: CD 28, ND 26, Canterbury 23, Otago 22, Wellington 17, Auckland 8.

- NZ Herald

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