A superb effort in the field and then a fine captain's knock by their Whanganui skipper Sam Sherriff saw Central Districts draw first blood with a composed five wicket win over Auckland at the Under 17 National Tournament in Lincoln yesterday.
The Auckland side got away to a reasonable start on the Lincoln Green, putting on 41 runs for the opening wicket by the 11th over, and then reached 94-2 by the 24th.
However, a couple of run outs by Central Districts got rid of the key men in skipper Nathan Robinson (31) and No3 batsman Dimithri Gallage (33).
Whanganui's Joel Clark made a brilliant throw from midwicket to run out Robinson with a direct hit, which coach Dilan Raj said proved crucial.
"It's one of the best fielding groups we've trained with," he said.
"It was a lot closer than the five wickets.
"[Auckland] kept answering back, I wouldn't be surprised to still see them make the final.
"They've got some good Sri Lankan players, who put the ball in funny angles.
"But our fielders were throwing themselves everywhere. We could have had another couple of run outs.
"Then Sammy controlled that middle part of it [the run chase]."
Auckland's middle order looked to regain momentum through Dinesh Kharel (26) and Connor Mckenzie (35 not out), but Sherriff took the catch to dismiss Kharel off the bowling of Marlborough's Tom Sutherland.
Central Districts then got through the Auckland lower order with Hawke's Bay vice captain William Clark (2-47), Taranaki's Jordan Gard (2-39) and Marlborough's Joel Lavender (2-39) doing the damage to dismiss them in the 49th over for 222.
Joel Clark was a little expensive with 30 runs taken from his five overs.
In reply, Central Districts started well with a 66 run partnership by Hawke's Bay openers Brayden Hill (61) and Sam Ferguson (20), before Auckland struck back with two quick wickets for 70-2.
Enter Sherriff, who worked with Hill for a 70-run partnership, and then carried on to make his half century off 59 balls, hitting five boundaries and a six.
Sherriff batted from the 16th to 42nd over, and by the time he was trapped in front by Mckenzie (2-37) for 52, Central Districts only needed another 19 runs to win with plenty of overs to get them.
Nelson's Finn Restieaux (37 not out) had gone on the attack with six boundaries and a six in his 28-ball innings, as Central Districts reached 224-5 in the 44th over.
This morning, Central Districts are playing Northern Districts on the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, having won the toss and elected to bat.