Auckland overcome collapse to seal final berth

Auckland overcame a disastrous start to their innings to post a sizeable total and complete a 45-run victory against Central Districts in New Plymouth, becoming the first team to secure a spot in the grand final of the 2014-15 Ford Trophy. Central Districts will now have to face Otago in their second attempt at making the final.

After choosing to bat at Pukekura Park, Auckland went from 17 for 0 to 17 for 3, with Doug Bracewell taking the first two of his four wickets and Kieran Noema-Barnett claiming the other. Carl Cachopa fell cheaply too, and Auckland were sinking at 34 for 4 in the eighth over.

The rally came from Colin Munro and Colin de Grandhomme. Munro clubbed 53 off 38 balls, hitting ten fours and a six, while de Grandhomme's 63 came off 64 deliveries. Even after they were dismissed, Auckland's lower order made useful contributions - Tarun Nethula's 36 off 27 balls was the best of the lot - to set up a total of 260 before they were all out in 49.3 overs. Bracewell finished with 4 for 44 for Central Districts.

Nethula then followed his batting cameo with a spell that crippled the chase. After losing both openers with the score on 19, Central Districts had recovered to 73 for 2 in the 21st over when Nethula began to make an impact. He dismissed the batsmen from No.3 to No. 6 to leave the chase reeling at 129 for 6 in the 35th over. Michael Bates took three lower-order wickets to dismiss Central Districts for 215 in 43.3 overs. Dane Cleaver's 66 off 40 balls, an innings that had six sixes, was in vain but Central Districts will have an opportunity to set up a re-match in the final.

Otago won the second preliminary final against Northern Districts by three wickets in a last-over finish in Queenstown to set up a knockout clash against Central Districts, with the prize being a chance to play Auckland in the final of the Ford Trophy.

Northern Districts started poorly after winning the toss, losing their openers to Neil Wagner to slip to 21 for 2 in the seventh over. They were steadied by a 90-run stand between Anton Devchich and Daryl Mitchell, both of whom scored half-centuries, but there were no substantial lower-order surge. Wagner finished with 4 for 60, while Sam Wells and Bradley Scott took two wickets each as Northern Districts were restricted to 245 for 8.

Otago lost Wells for a two-ball duck in the first over of the chase, and then slipped to 53 for 3, but were bolstered by a series of useful middle and lower-order scores. Jesse Ryder's 52 off 54 balls was the top score but that also meant there was a lack of large partnerships. Otago were 201 in the 41st over when Derek de Boorder was the seventh wicket to fall, but Mark Craig and Neil Wagner took the team to victory with a watchful stand of 45. They won with four balls to spare.