Jones leads Auckland to State Championship glory
Auckland 325 (Canning 106, Gillespie 6-81) and 209 for 3 (Jones 114) beat Wellington 235 (Adams 5-39) and 297 (Woodcock 106, Nevin 68, Walmsley 5-94) by 7 wickets
A century to Richard Jones ensured that Auckland wrapped up the State Championship against Wellington on the last day of the final at Eden Park's Outer Oval. Chasing 208 and beginning the day on 52 for 1, Auckland did it in style, winning by seven wickets.
After a lengthy stint with Wellington that culminated in him representing New Zealand last season, Jones returned to Auckland this season with little success, but his unbeaten 114 lessened the impact of earlier failures. Auckland were deserveing winners, having not only set the pace in the final, but having been the first-class cricket front-runners since the competition began in December.
At stumps on day three, Wellington were 111 for 4 in their second innings, a lead of just 21 runs. When that became 114 for 5 early on day four, Wellington were on their last legs as Chris Nevin joined Luke Woodcock at the crease.
Last season, Wellington's middle order was its strength, with Nevin being a key man. Like Jones, Nevin has struggled with the bat this season after an injury forced him to relinquish the wicketkeeping gloves mid-season but he found form when it mattered most, scoring 68 in a partnership of 110 with Woodcock, whose 106 took a painstaking 446 minutes.
They enabled Wellington to post a score that they may have considered decent at the toss. When the captain, Matthew Bell, and coach, Vaughan Johnson, reflect, their decision to bat first will inevitably be revisited. The justification given by Johnson was that the pitch, which had been used for a previous match, would be hardest to bat on last and just two front-line quicks were included as a result. With Jeetan Patel, Wellington's anticipated trump card, taking just one wicket in 48 overs in the match, that decision backfired.
Auckland's success this season was based on a team made up primarily of allrounders and a batting order that has had more rotations that a Shane Warne legbreak.
In the final, the captain, Brooke Walker, promoted himself from his station at the tail to bat at No. 4. A legspinner by trade, Walker bowled only 20.2 overs in the final and often filled the role of stock bowler. As they have done all season, it was the pacemen who did the damage: Andre Adams took 5 for 39 in the first innings and Kerry Walmsley snared 5 for 94 in the second. Between them they sent down a mammoth 65 of the 112 overs in Wellington's second innings.
Other match highlights were Tama Canning's 106 to rescue Auckland's first innings and the 6 for 81 taken by Wellington's Mark Gillespie.
Andrew McLean is a presenter of The Cricket Club, New Zealand's only national radio cricket show.