The Central Stags were left ruing missed opportunities this afternoon as they handed the bottom-placed Canterbury Wizards their first HRV Cup win of the season at Nelson's Saxton Oval.
Chasing a target of 153, the Wizards nevertheless did it the hard way after a superb opening bowling spell from Bevan Small, whose first three overs cost just seven runs and claimed the wicket of Rob Nicol. Even after Small's final over later in the chase, when he came up against Gareth Andrew in full flight and was caned for 14, he finished with a fine 1-21.
Wielding his short-handle Mongoose, the punishing Andrew (his unbeaten 53 coming from 25 balls) wrested back control of the chase just as the required run-rate was climbing into uncomfortable double-figures territory. Alongside Todd Astle he slammed Marty Kain for 19 runs off the 14th, then took 16 off Adam Milne before Small's return saw the chase drop to a mere run-a-ball - the elated Wizards continuing their late charge to win the game with an over to spare.
Earlier the Stags would have fancied their chances, having been gifted an easy run out when George Worker ran a comfortable single in the 8th over only to turn and see his fleet-footed batting partner Brad Cachopa at the same end, having run two. The Wizards stumbled further to 64/4 before Andy Ellis steadied the ship with Andrew. Their good work was continued by Todd Astle, until he was caught brilliantly by Small in the covers off the penultimate ball of the innings for a lively 25.
Batting first after winning the toss, Stags captain Kieran Noema-Barnett (36 off 22) and veteran Mathew Sinclair (38 off 35) produced one of the few stands of substance of the first innings, rustling up a brisk 50-partnership before Noema-Barnett became the third Stag to fall with the score at 86 just past the midway mark of the innings.
Carl Cachopa picked up the reins and supported Sinclair to the three-quarters mark before Sinclair was caught by Andrew off Ryan McCone on the dreaded "Nelson's" mark of 111. When Nicol lured Cachopa into a simple caught-and-bowled in the following over, it triggered a frantic finish that saw the Stags lose a further 3 wickets for just 31 runs.
Mitchell Claydon was the pick of the Canterbury bowlers, claiming internationals Kruger van Wyk and Tarun Nethula inside three balls in the 18th over to finish with his best performance yet this season, 3-25 off four.