Canterbury in final, Wellington get second chance
A round-up of the preliminary finals played on February 11, 2017
Canterbury defended 250 to seal their spot in the final of the Ford Trophy 2016-17. Wellington fell short of their target by 28 runs, but will get a second go at making the title bout on February 15 when they play Central Districts in the third-preliminary final. This is courtesy their top-of-the-table finish in the round-robin stage; the loser of the preliminary-final between Nos. 1 and 2 plays the winner of the preliminary-final between Nos. 3 and 4. Three wickets in an economic spell from fast bowler Matt Henry went a long way in ensuring Canterbury's win. He claimed two of Wellington's top three cheaply, before returning to end a feisty last-wicket stand between Brent Arnel and Hamish Bennett that had added 32 at over a run a ball. In between Henry's strikes, several Wellington batsmen got starts but only Luke Ronchi managed to convert that into a half-century. Pacers Henry Shipley and Andrew Ellis were also incisive and economical, taking five wickets between them, to ensure Wellington never got away.
Canterbury's total was built around half-centuries from Chad Bowes and Todd Astle. They were wobbling at 10 for 2 after being inserted, but opener Bowes held the innings together with his 84. After he and Astle were out, another hiccup happened with two wickets in two balls (Ellis caught behind and Johnston run out in the 42nd over), but Cole McConchie ensured they did not slide with a swift, unbeaten 40. Canterbury were eventually bowled out with three balls to spare, most of the damage being done by the spin of Jeetan Patel and the new-ball pair of Arnel and Bennett. But their total of 250 proved more than enough in the end.
Central Districts had only one win in their first six matches in this season's Ford Trophy. They won their last two group games with bonus points and made the playoffs. Now they've won their first playoff, beating Northern Districts by 48 runs in New Plymouth, to be one step away from the final. They will need to beat Wellington - who lost only one match in the round-robin stage - on February 15, to have a shot at what had looked like a highly improbable title at one stage. Central Districts chose to bat and were propelled to 336 for 7 on the back of a maiden List A century from Tom Bruce and knocks of seventy-odd at the top and bottom of the order from George Worker and Kieran Noema-Barnett. Bruce and Noema-Barnett's runs came particularly quickly; Bruce's 100 came off 81 balls and included eight sixes, while Noema-Barnett's 74 came off 49 balls. Amid the carnage, Northern Districts' Scott Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi maintained economy rates under five, and shared four wickets between them.
Northern Districts' middle order made a decent fight of it, with three half-century partnerships in good time - going into the final 10, they needed 105 with six wickets in hand and two set batsmen at the crease. But then the bottom five managed only 16 runs among them to end the challenge. When they were bowled out for 288 in the 49th over, Kuggeleijn was left stranded on 85 off 52. Fast bowler Seth Rance and left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel were the most effective of the Central Districts bowlers, picking up three apiece in tidy spells.