Nathan McCullum could not be kept out of the action before the Otago Volts held their nerve to beat the Northern Knights by five runs in a Ford Trophy one-day thriller at Hamilton today.
The New Zealand limited overs international made vital contributions with both bat and ball as the Volts guaranteed their presence in the preliminary finals with one round remaining but only after witnessing a maiden one-day century to Anton Devcich which carried the Knights to the brink of an unlikely win.
McCullum firstly struck a swashbuckling, career best 90 off just 43 balls as the Volts made a polished 293 for five at Seddon Park, then reappeared at the bowling crease with his offspin to claim two for 37 off 10 overs.
The Knights’ chase began promisingly enough as Hamish Marshall and Brad Wilson passed 50 without loss before Jimmy Neesham induced an edge behind off Marshall when he’d made 30.
It was then the turn of McCullum to apply more pressure as he bowled Wilson for 17 and caught and bowled Brook Hatwell for a duck as the Knights stumbled.
Neesham inflicted another blow by bowling James Marshall and at 76 for four inside 17 overs the Knights were at lengthening odds.
But someone forgot to tell Devcich, who launched a withering assault to give the Knights fresh hope after they appeared dead and buried at 134 for six in the 30th over.
Devcich scored 101 not out off 103 balls with five fours and four sixes and shared a Knights record seventh wicket stand against allcomers of 119 runs with Brandon Hiini before Hiini departed for 47 off 42 off the last ball of the 44th over when his side were very much back in the contest at 253 for seven.
The Knights, who managed just six runs off the 46th and 47th overs bowled by Nick Beard and Neesham, still had a chance when requiring 15 from the final over but they could manage only nine.
McCullum had earlier arrived at the crease with the Volts on 172 for four in the 39th over following a fine 55 off 70 balls from first drop Michael Bracewell.
He joined the settled Craig Cumming, who had the luxury of watching on as McCullum threw caution to the wind to belt seven sixes and three fours in his eighth one-day half-century for Otago.
Their partnership of 116 ended in the last over when McCullum was caught and bowled by Graeme Aldridge, leaving Cumming unbeaten at the finish on a relatively sedate 85 of 98 balls, with four fours and two sixes.