BLACKCAPS Test opener Tim McIntosh smashed a magnificent 161 as Auckland Aces cruised to a 65-run win over Otago Volts in the Men's One-Day semi-final cricket match at Auckland's Colin Maiden Park.
The win means Auckland earn a second tilt at Canterbury in Sunday's final, after suffering a 41-run loss in last Sunday's preliminary semi-final.
Batting with a runner for much of his 138-ball innings after injuring his foot, McIntosh was in imperious form before being trapped leg before wicket by Neil Wagner with just four balls remaining in the innings.
It was his third one-day century, comfortably bettering his previous high score of 138, and included nine fours and five sixes.
And while McIntosh's knock proved pivotal, he received invaluable support from Lou Vincent with 66 off 69 balls, as the pair put on 102 in 19.2 overs for the first wicket.
Jeet Raval (38) and Gareth Hopkins, with 47 from 35 balls, also contributed as Auckland amassed an intimidating total.
Otago started their run chase purposefully enough, openers Aaron Redmond and Michael Bracewell scoring at a shade more than five runs an over as they crafted a useful opening partnership of 78.
However, Bracewell rode his luck once too often on 28 in the 16th over, wafting at a Darryl Tuffey delivery and Auckland wicketkeeper Hopkins took the regulation catch.
The wickets then fell regularly as intelligent Auckland bowling took its toll, backed up by some sharp work in the field.
Ronnie Hira picked up the first of his two wickets in the 22nd over as Neil Broom tried to sweep behind square leg, missed and was trapped plumb in front.
Only another seven runs were added before Auckland captured the vital wicket of Redmond, leaving Otago struggling at 114 for three.
Redmond's 69 was his highest score of the domestic one-day competition -- his previous best was 66 -- but he would have been disappointed at the manner of his dismissal. Hira tempted with a little extra air, and Redmond's ill-timed stroke was caught by Vincent at extra cover.
As the boundaries dried up, Otago's batsmen were forced to take more chances as they chased an unlikely win.
Colin de Grandhomme picked up the valuable wicket of Otago captain Craig Cumming midway through the 27th over for four, then Andre Adams chipped in to remove Darren Stevens, clean bowling the English import after he charged a tempting full delivery.
Darren Broom followed in short order, after a slog across the line was top-edged to Hopkins, and Otago's cause was lost at 189 for six after 37 overs.
Ian Butler added only two runs before holing out to Hira at long off trying to force the pace, then Vincent cleaned up the tail to finish with the unlikely figures of 7-3 from his solitary over.