The Central Stags prepared for the upcoming preliminary finals with an ominous performance as they dominated previous Ford Trophy one-day leaders Auckland today.
The Stags won their final round robin match at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth by eight wickets, promoting themselves from fourth to first and pocketing a crucial bonus point in the process after chasing down the Aces’ inadequate 123 in only 27.2 overs.
Both teams were already assured of places in the preliminary finals being staged on Sunday but the Stags took the opportunity to ensure they head into the playoffs with momentum behind them.
They completed their programme in top spot, a remarkable achievement considering half of their eight matches fell victim to inclement weather, and now meet the Aces again in the major preliminary final.
Medium pacer Bevan Small, in his one-day debut for the home side, proved the star turn for the Stags as he collected five for 45 when the Aces failed to flatter after being invited to bat first.
The HRV Cup Twenty20 champions started poorly and never recovered, with only Colin Munro leaving an imprint to make 44 off 54 balls, before being dismissed in only the 33rd over.
Small was the clear standout with the ball while seamers Michael Mason and Adam Milne also impressed in collecting two wickets apiece, for 31 and 33 runs respectively.
The Stags were never stretched by such a modest target, particularly once skipper Jamie How and Dean Robinson put on 71 inside 14 overs for the first wicket.
How was the first to depart, for a run-a-ball 46, and Robinson, fresh from his maiden one-day century against the Canterbury Wizards, was more watchful in reaching 35 off 59 before edging behind off Mitchell McClenaghan.