Halftime nerves turned into fulltime celebrations for the Otago Volts as they nailed a 12-run victory over the HELL Wellington Firebirds at the Hawkins Basin Reserve to all but assure themselves of a home HRV Cup final.
Winning the toss and batting first, the Volts had been restrained by a well-controlled bowling display through the middle of their innings by the fired-up Firebirds in the top of the table clash, and were forced to settle for 170/6 in their 20.
Captain Derek de Boorder led the way with a determined 67 off 44, but Jesse Ryder matched him with a star turn in the field, taking a brilliant catch to dismiss his opposite number Hamish Rutherford (who had raced to 32 off 20) before taking the ball himself to produce a tidy and pivotal 1-28 off a full complement of four overs.
Ryder's victim with the ball was the key wicket of pro Ryan ten Doeschate, who fell to a bobbled catch by Ili Tugaga with the innings in the balance at 117/4.
Spinner Houghton (0-32 off four) again proved an excellent foil at the other end and, despite a strong finish by the Volts batsmen, they knew they would have to bowl well to get back into the game.
And that's what they did. Ironically Jacob Duffy, the leading wicket-taker of the competition, was the only paceman to lose his poise this time, Tamim Iqbal plastering him for 14 runs off his first over of the day. But the Volts are hardly short on quality fast bowlers and after Fuller scored the big wicket of Ryder in just the third over of the reply, they rapidly turned the tables on the home side, throttling them through the middle by bowling full and straight.
Iqbal, playing his last game for the Firebirds this season, weathered the tight attack for 12 overs, but couldn't make inroads as the required run rate started rising into 13-an-over territory. He fell for 41 off 38 just as his team urgently needed a player to launch. Fellow pro Cameron Borgas (35 off 39) had also struggled to get the ball through the field, and by the time captain Grant Elliott arrived at the crease in a aggressive mood his team needed a steep 73 off the last five overs.
The Firebirds had left it too late, and the delighted Volts now move into the box seat on the points table, a home final beckoning bar a major upset.
Otago Volts - 28
Wellington Firebirds - 20
Northern Knights - 20
Auckland Aces - 12
Canterbury Wizards - 8
Central Stags - 8
Full points table: http://www.blackcaps.co.nz/domestic/points-table/137/hrv-cup.aspx
Full scoreboard: http://scoring.blackcaps.co.nz/livescoring/match1660/scorecard.aspx