Raval shines as Auckland finish on top
Auckland finished first in the league phase of the State Championship after a commanding performance in the drawn match against Central Districts at the Eden Park Outer Oval. The match was a rehearsal for the final, which will be played from April 5 at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval. Auckland claimed first-innings points after a tremendous performance from their batsmen.
Auckland's batsmen thrived after they were asked to bat by Mathew Sinclair. Led by 20-year old Jeet Raval, who was playing only his third first-class game, Auckland batted Central Districts out of the contest by amassing 662 for 5. Raval, who lost his opening partner Richard Jones in the second over, dominated the Central Districts bowlers and scored 256, his highest first class score. He added 152 runs for the fourth wicket with Reece Young, who made 74, and 228 with Gareth Hopkins for the fifth. Raval was dismissed with the score on 511 but Hopkins and Colin de Grandhomme weighed in with centuries to lead Auckland to 662.
Even though they had been fielding for the best part of two days Central Districts' openers, Peter Ingram and George Worker, added 76 for the first wicket. However, they lost their way on the third morning and Central Districts lost wickets regularly thereafter, leaving Sinclair, who was left stranded on 131, with little support at the other end. The innings ended on 318, giving Auckland a 344-run lead.
Auckland decided against enforcing the follow-on and gave their batsmen more practice. Raval did not open this time and his replacement, Rob Nicol scored a brisk 104 to lead his team to 198 for 3 before the game ended.
Williamson and Michael Parlane (103) added 165 while Brad Wilson (94), Peter McGlashan (56) and Bradley Scott (55) contributed half-centuries in Northern Districts' 546, which gave them a 225-run first-innings lead over Wellington.
Wellington ended day three on a comfortable 53 for 0 with openers Matthew Bell, who had scored a century in a the first innings, and Josh Brodie looking well-set for big scores. Brodie made a half-century but on the final-day pitch spinners Williamson and Bruce Martin took four of the first five wickets with Wellington still trailing by 38 runs. Grant Elliott (84) hung on to give Wellington a lead but with the last five wickets falling for 83, Wellington could only set Northern Districts a target of 65. Northern Districts lost their openers but wrapped up the chase in 10 overs.
Last year's champions Canterbury ended their season at the bottom of the table after a washed-out final day forced a draw in their match against Otago in Christchurch. Otago, who were just two points ahead of Canterbury at the start of the final round of matches, managed a five-run first-innings lead, which eventually gave them eight points for the season. Both teams failed to win a single game this season.
Canterbury were rescued by a 167-run eighth-wicket stand between Kruger van Wyk and Ryan McCone after a top-order collapse, but it proved pointless after Craig Cumming scored his 15th first-class hundred to help Otago get first-innings points. Cumming and Aaron Redmond added 180 together but Johann Myburgh and Andrew Ellis took seven wickets between them to bowl out Otago for 320. Canterbury's top order made up for their poor show in the first innings and took their side to 233 for 4 at the end of day three. Michael Papps (103), Peter Fulton (61) and Myburgh (50 not out) ensured Otago a lead of 238 but rain ruled out their chance of extending it further and giving themselves a shot at bowling out Otago to improve their standing.