The Auckland Aces broke the hearts of SKYCITY Northern Knights supporters this evening by nailing their fourth win in a row to join the HELL Wellington Firebirds in the HRV Cup Preliminary Final.
Defeating the Devon Hotel Central Stags by six wickets in a stop-start, rain-affected match at the Eden Park outer oval, the victory saw the Aces draw level with the Knights on the points table, but eclipse them on overall net run rate to keep alive their hopes of defending their HRV Cup title.
Little known until this season, Donovan Grobbelaar again stood up for the Aces, heroically smashing an unbeaten 36 off 19 balls at the death, including a six and a four off Kyle Jarvis to win the game with an over to spare.
His blistering cameo came just as the game was beginning to lean the Stags' way, with the thriftiness of spinners Marty Kain and Tarun Nethula having pushed the Aces' required run rate into double figures for the first time in the match.
With Anaru Kitchen having retired hurt early in his innings with a suspected abdominal strain and Kain's flight snaring the dangerous Colin de Grandhomme soon after, the Aces were effectively five-down, but holding the innings together was lively opener Lou Vincent - who produced his first half-century of the competition, an unbeaten 52 off 39, right when it mattered most.
For the Stags it was their eighth loss in a season in which they finish at the wrong end of the table, while Andre Adams' two wickets sees him join the Otago Volts' Nick Beard and Jacob Duffy, and the Knights' Brent Arnel, as the competition's leading wicket-takers with 13 victims apiece.