Auckland overcome spirited Central Districts for title
Auckland 342 (Jones 109, Kitchen 115) and 188 for 5 (Grandhomme 54*) beat Central Districts 180 (Shaw 5-59) and 349 (Ingram 90, Thompson 54*) by five wickets
Auckland had to survive some nervy moments before clinching their fourth State Championship in eight years at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln. Central Districts put up spirited resistance as Auckland started chasing the 188 needed for the title.
Auckland were wobbling at 41 for 3 and 104 for 5 before their last recognised pair, Gareth Hopkins and Colin de Grandhomme, put on an unbroken 84 runs to seal the victory. de Grandhomme made a cavalier 54, which had six fours and a six while Hopkins was more watchful in scoring 48. Auckland had been crawling towards their target at just over two runs an over before No. 7 de Grandhomme's breezy knock injected some momentum into the chase.
Earlier in the day, Central Districts' disciplined bowlers dismissed four of the Auckland top five for less than 20, allowing only captain and opener Richard Jones to make a significant contribution. It continued Central Districts' strong showing in the match after a limp performance on the first two days but Hopkins and Grandhomme ended their hopes of a fairytale comeback.
Auckland coach Paul Strang admitted he was nervous as Central Districts gradually whittled down his side's advantage. "We got a long way ahead but CD really chipped away at us for four days and it really came down to us today, how much we wanted it," he said. "At one stage it started to get a bit dodgy but it was always about getting one good partnership."
It was Central Districts who had set the early pace in the tournament, and were ahead of third-placed Auckland by 14 points at the halfway stage, before Auckland put together a string of victories to finish the league phase on top.
"You develop an aura that you're always going to come out on top, and that happened with us," Strang said. "There's a lot of self-belief and once you get a happy camp and allow players to express themselves, good things happen."