Two teams faced sudden death in the HRV Cup when the Canterbury Wizards met the Auckland Aces in Rangiora today and in the very last over, it was the Wizards who blinked first.
Having batted first after winning the toss, the Wizards got off to tame start with Brad Cachopa first to fall, caught by his brother Craig to become the first of young Matt Quinn's three victims for the day.
The promotion of Todd Astle up the order backfired when Andre Adams, back from injury for this key match, grabbed his wicket in his first turn with the ball. The slower bowlers then constricted the scoring and it wasn't until the midway mark of the innings that opener George Worker and the experienced Andy Ellis turned the heat back onto the Aces with a destructive 78-run partnership for the third wicket.
Worker underpinned the innings and delivered his highest HRV Cup score right when it counted, surviving two early dropped chances to post an unbeaten 89 off 60 balls, while Ellis slammed Anaru Kitchen and Bhupinder Singh for handsome sixes before his departure for a quickfire 40 when the score was on 111.
Brendon Diamanti took over, playing the handy support act for the well-established Worker, falling to Quinn in the penultimate over of the innings just short of a 50 partnership, Quinn's 3-35 his best performance yet.
Chasing 183 and requiring nine runs an over, the Aces likewise suffered initial blows with the early loss of Lou Vincent and then captain Gareth Hopkins, before Phil Mustard (37 off 30) and Anaru Kitchen carved 17 runs off Matt Henry's third over to ease the pressure.
The Wizards immediately hit back with right-arm debutant Cole McConchie and Ryan MCone turning the screws through the middle stages, increasing pressure which saw McCone pick up the wickets of both batsmen to finish with a respectable 2-22 off his four.
Crucially Colin de Grandhomme (36 from 23) and Cachopa (37 off 26) quickly picked up the pace, clawing back the required run rate before both were lost in successive overs, leaving 25 runs to be found from 11 balls. With the game on a knife-edge, Donovan Grobbelaar then came in and immediately smashed Ellis for a six, before blasting a four and another six in consecutive balls to haul the equation down to eight off the last over.
After Adams squeaked a single off the first ball, the heroic Grobbelaar coolly drove the ball for another two consecutive boundaries to see the Aces home with three balls to spare, ending the Wizards' faint hopes of reaching the Preliminary Final. He had taken his 24 runs from just seven balls.
The Aces now need to beat the Devon Hotel Central Stags at Eden Park on Tuesday to claim the last spot in Preliminary Final, which will be hosted by the HELL Wellington Firebirds on Friday. Should the Aces lose their last-round match, the SKYCITY Northern Knights will go through to the Preliminary Final instead.
Otago Volts - 32
Wellington Firebirds - 24
Northern Knights - 20
Auckland Aces - 16
Canterbury Wizards - 12
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/match1666/scorecard.aspx