The Auckland Aces have booked a spot in the HRV Cup final against the Central Stags after finishing on equal points with the Otago Volts but ahead on net run-rate.
Final standings were decided after the two teams met in the last match of the round today at Colin Maiden Park in Auckland.
The Volts left with the spoils after a thrilling match that went to an eliminator over but they needed to complete a more convincing victory if they were to leap from the Aces and go on to defend their title.
Needing 13 off four balls with only one wicket in hand, number eleven batsman Nick Beard lashed two fours and a single with Derek de Boorder hammering a four off the final ball to tie the match up at 171 all.
Brendon McCullum came to the crease and hit Daryl Tuffey for eight runs in two balls before being caught and bowled with brother Nathan getting them through to 13 off the eliminator over.
Overseas import Yasir Arafat was handed the responsibility of defending the total and did so with ease. Colin de Grandhomme was bowled first ball and then Martin Guptill and Scott Styris only managing one boundary handing the Volts a six run win.
The Aces will be ruing the fact that they didn’t put the Volts away earlier and looked odds on favourites when they reduced them to 65 for five.
Enter Nathan McCullum who was in imperious form, facing 35 deliveries and striking three fours and four sixes in his 65. The innings wrestled back some momentum and allowed the tail to power them home.
Ian Butler, who earlier left the field with a leg injury, stood tall and smacked 19 off nine with Warren McSkimming contributing 23 off 16.
Aces seamer Michael Bates ended with the best figures of three for 24 with spinner Ronnie Hira chiming in with two for 27.
Earlier, the Aces top order also struggled, collapsing to be 71 for six before Aranu Kitchen and de Grandhomme collaborated for a seventh wicket partnership of 77 runs.
All rounder De Grandhomme was particularly brutal, hitting three fours and three sixes before being dismissed on 40 off 23 - his highest Twenty20 score.
Kitchen was the spine of an innings, reaching 54 off 39 balls, featuring four fours and two sixes.
Otago spearhead Neil Wagner took three for 35 with Yasir Arafat, Butler and Nathan McCullum picking up two apiece.
HRV Cup Final
Central Stags v Auckland Aces
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
Sunday, 31 January 2010