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Thrilling Auckland win flips Shield table upside down

Auckland snatched a thrilling last-over win from Wellington in their State Shield one-day match on a first-rate one-day pitch at North Harbour Stadium today and jumped from fifth to equal first on the Shield table

Don Cameron
Auckland snatched a thrilling last-over win from Wellington in their State Shield one-day match on a first-rate one-day pitch at North Harbour Stadium today and jumped from fifth to equal first on the Shield table.
Aaron Barnes, the all-rounder who did not get a professional contract with Auckland after being granted a benefit season, and who only came into the team as a replacement, was Auckland's special hero yet again, masterminding the unbeaten 85-run stand which lifted Auckland from 169 for five to the winning total 253 against Wellington's 252.
Auckland could also look with pride at the crash-bang innings of 65 by the opening batsman Llorne Howell which gave Auckland the top-gear start which allowed Auckland to muddle through the middle of the innings and still finish full of fight and success when Barnes and Kyle Mills (32 not out) fashioned their famous winning stand.
But when regarded as a guide to how some of the players, and New Zealand as a team, may fare in the World Cup next month the game left several feelings of unease.
When the New Zealand side was named the absence of Chris Nevin, the Wellington opening batsman and wicket-keeper was explained away by the need to stiffen the batting, with Mathew Sinclair being fitted into the top order.
At the same time Paul Hitchcock, the medium-to-quick bowler and handy batsman was left out, and with the nagging thought that if Chris Harris did not play New Zealand might go into the World Cup with bowlers aiming to take wickets rather than have the balance of one or two medium-pace misers that might be just as vital to the New Zealand attack.
Today both Nevin and Hitchcock played with the skill and craft of genuine New Zealand one-day players. Nevin batted close to two and a half hours when starting the Wellington innings with 82. It was a mixture of blazing strokes in his favourite mid-wicket and extra cover areas, and any number of tidy ones and twos which kept the runs flowing in.
Compared with some of the opening batting that New Zealand players have offered in recent matches Nevin would win the race by a furlong or two.
Hitchcock does not look like a five-star, award-winning player - but then again neither did Gavin Larsen or Harris in recent national sides. Hitchcock simply is a very organised all-round cricketer. On today's evidence he would fit very neatly into a well-balanced one-day side.
In the last quarter of the Wellington innings Hitchcock scored 39 from 35 balls as he and Mayu Pasupati mocked what was supposed to be a menacing "death" bowling attack from Auckland.
Hitchcock bowled like a stingy tax-collector in the first two thirds of the Auckland innings and when he came back in a last-gasp four-over burst he flummoxed the Aucklanders by offering only three singles over two vital overs. It was a small masterpiece by a man who obviously knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball.
And it was in direct contrast to the final bowling flings by Andre Adams and Mills, the Aucklanders who are evidently regarded as key men in the World Cup bowling line.
In the first half of the match Adams and Mills were workmanlike. In the last few overs, when there was a chance to peg Wellington back to the low 200s (after looking like 300 when Nevin was flourishing), Mills and Adams were awfully inaccurate.
In their last five overs, when Hitchcock and Pasupati - not exactly world-class batsmen - were swooping on anything loose, Mills and Adams had the undying ambition that a diet of short-pitched fliers would put these Wellington upstarts in their place - apparently runless as they were busily ducking out of danger.
Instead Hitchcock and Pasupati savaged those last five overs. Adams was hit to 11, six and 14, Mills for four and 14 - 49 runs in five overs by a couple of low-order battlers.
Denis Aberhart, the national coach, was at the game. The three national selectors Sir Richard Hadlee, Brian McKechnie and Ross Dykes were not noticed among the few hundred spectators. They should have been, for there were some valuable lessons to be learned about some of the national or non-national players.