Neesham, McCullum deliver close win for Otago
Otago 253 (Redmond 90, Rutherford 70, Bartlett 5-53) and 223 for 7 (McCullum 77, McLenaghan 3-48, C Martin 3-62) beat Auckland 196 (Munro 59, Butler 5-57) and 274 (Munro 118, Butler 4-61) by three wickets
Lower-order batsmen Jimmy Neesham and Neil Wagner scored 74 runs in 7.4 overs to steer Otago to a three-wicket victory against Auckland. Despite Nathan McCullum's 77, Otago were reduced to 169 for 7 in their chase of 218, after Chris Martin and Mitchell Mclenaghan took three wickets each. However, Neesham struck some heavy blows and took his side to the target. A 57-run first-innings lead helped Otago get an achievable target to chase, as Colin Munro's century had helped Auckland to a strong second-innings total of 274.
Auckland, batting first, succumbed to seamer Ian Butler on the first day, and they couldn't overcome the disadvantage caused due to this throughout the rest of the match. Munro scored 59, but besides him and Lou Vincent, no one provided resistance to Butler as Auckland were bowled out for 196 in the 52nd over. Otago finished the day at 86 for 0, firmly in control of the contest.
But this strong foundation of a 103-run opening stand gave way to a lower-order collapse as 25-year old seamer Dean Bartlett took five wickets to bowl them out for 253. At 240 for 4, they lost their last six wickets for 13 runs. Opener Aaron Redmond was the top-scorer with 98, and his opening partner Hamish Rutherford scored 70, but of the following batsmen there were six who scored in single digits, and only one of them scored more than 17 - middle-order batsman Sam Wells. Well's was the fifth wicket to fall, and it led to the collapse.
Auckland's comeback was undone by Butler again. He dismissed the openers, to contribute to their disarray at 96 for 5. But Munro and Craig Cachopa steadied the innings by sharing a 96-run stand. After Butler removed Cachopa and Kyle Mills to leave them at 198 for 7, Munro rallied with No. 9 Bruce Martin to push their side to 274. Munro's 118 off 124 deliveries featured six hits for sixes.
Martin and McLenaghan consolidated on the platform provided by his knock, and Otago's top order was rocked early. Redmond and McCullum, and later McCullum and Wells kept them in the hunt for the target. But this time, Wells' dismissal in the 53rd over did not lead to another collapse, as Otago fought it out to win by three wickets.