The Central Stags can stand and salute stalwart Michael Mason, who signed off his career in fairytale fashion when he helped win a gripping Ford Trophy one-day final with one ball to spare today (12 February).
Mason, a 37-year-old better known for his niggardly seam bowling, covered himself in glory by clouting a career high 41 not out off 19 balls as the Stags chased down the Auckland Aces’ challenging 282 for eight at New Plymouth.
Mason, who’d early picked up three wickets, clubbed 20 runs off the 49th over from left-arm fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan to leave the hosts requiring only six off the final over from Chris Martin at Pukekura Park.
He and Martin Kain, who ended up unbeaten on 23 off 15, duly completed their work to cap an outstanding chase from the Stags after their cause looked doomed at 226 for eight in the 46th over.
But Mason and Kain stepped into the breach, putting on 60 for the ninth wicket in a 27-ball partnership which hits its straps in the penultimate over when Mason twice hit McClenaghan over the ropes.
The Stags’ reply had struck early problems after a triple strike from McClenaghan reduced them to 35 for three inside nine overs before opener Dean Robinson and Kruger van Wyk raised their hopes.
This pair kept the hosts in the contest as they added 113 for the fourth wicket to carry the Stags to 148 in the 32nd over when Robinson’s innings was terminated due to some smart work from left-arm spinner Bruce Martin.
Robinson was on 63 off 87 balls when he followed too far and could not remake his ground before Martin fielded the ball off his own bowling, turned quickly and hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Van Wyk joined Robinson in the pavilion a little more than two overs later as the Stags were left at 154 for five when he tried to add to his 66 off 75 only to cross bat a short ball from Chris Martin to mid -off.
With a lengthy tail the Stags were boosted for a time by Tarun Nethula, who cracked a career best 43, easily surpassing his previous high of 23, as he and Kieran Noema-Barnett made good progress.
But Noema-Barnett succumbed for 16 when dragging a ball on to his stumps from left-arm spinner Bruce Martin then Nethula, who clubbed 20 off one over from medium pacer Colin Munro, skied spinner Anaru Kitchen to deep mid wicket after striking three sixes and four fours off 33 balls.
Enter Mason and Kain to see the Stags home.
Earlier, Neal Parlane crafted a fine 106 as the Aces set the Stags a tall order to chase.
The former Wellington and Northern Districts stalwart was only called into the Auckland 11 for last week’s preliminary final against Otago when international commitments tapped into their playing resources.
Parlane responded by scoring a career best 117 as Otago were comfortably beaten and today he maintained that strong form with his third century in 108 domestic one-day appearances.
He offered three catches during a stay lasting 133 balls, the last of them being accepted after he was dropped twice while striking 10 fours on a ground of small dimensions.
Parlane played a huge role rebuilding the Aces innings after they lost Jeet Raval and Brad Cachopa cheaply, finding support for a period from Anaru Kitchen, who made 27, before skipper Gareth Hopkins and left-hander Munro came to the party.
Hopkins hit an aggressive 47 off 52 balls as he and Parlane shared a stand of 111 for the fourth wicket then Munro arrived to hurry things along further, a 51-ball unbeaten 68 containing six fours and three sixes ensuring a robust total.
Seamers Mason and Bevan Small were the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of three for 52 off 10 overs and two for 37 off eight respectively.
Result: Central Stags won by 2 wickets