Cricket: Aces out to sweep Wellington from path to Plunket Shield

By David Leggat

Robbie O'Donnell is leading Auckland's run production. Photo / Nick Reed
Robbie O'Donnell is leading Auckland's run production. Photo / Nick Reed

Auckland can all but wrap up the Plunket Shield if they beat Wellington outright in their penultimate-round match starting at the Basin Reserve today.

They face battling Central Districts in their final match which, on current form, is a useful final card to play should things go wrong in the capital.

Wellington must win to close the 23-point gap and give themselves a chance of a late rails run to the domestic cricket title. The pitch is expected to be green and seam-friendly on day one.

But should Wellington try and jazz up the pitch to increase the chances of getting the win they need, Auckland coach Mark O'Donnell's view is: bring it on.

"I think they will gamble with that, but we'll back ourselves to beat any team, particularly if they try to make it a little bit more result- oriented," O'Donnell said.

"We are going down to win this game, not just to pick up some bonus points."

Auckland have recalled batsman Mark Chapman, just back from representing Hong Kong in the world T20 qualifying tournament in India, in place of Brett Randell in their only change.

Auckland have won four of their last five games, a draw with Otago the only blemish.

Robbie O'Donnell (645 runs at 46.07) and Michael Guptill-Bunce (607 at 40.46) are leading Auckland's run production, while legspinner Tarun Nethula (26 wickets), and seamers Lockie Ferguson (22), Donovan Grobbelaar (20) and captain Michael Bates (18) are the key wicket takers.

In other games starting today, bottom-placed Otago host Central Districts and Canterbury play Northern Districts in Christchurch. ND batsman Bharat Popli, needs just 58 runs needed to bring up 1000 in the shield this season.

Points with two rounds to go: Auckland 122, Wellington 99, Canterbury 91, Northern Districts 76, Central Districts 59, Otago 53. David Leggat

- NZ Herald

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