High octane half-centuries from Martin Guptill and Azhar Mahmood helped the Auckland Aces protect their position atop the HRV Cup Twenty20 standings after they posted a decisive 30-run win over the Otago Volts today.
Pakistan import Mahmood walloped 79 not out off 49 balls and Guptill a six-laden 65 to power the Aces to 187 for two at Auckland’s Colin Maiden Park.
That proved more than enough as the Volts were held to 157 for eight, the result lifting the Aces to 18 points, four clear of the second-placed Canterbury Wizards, with four rounds remaining before the final.
Fresh from a record breaking 120 not out against the Wizards at Rangiora, Guptill was again in glorious touch as he eased into his work before hitting out in style, passing 50 off 37 balls by the completion of the 11th over.
He lifted his haul of sixes to six before seeking to clear the ropes again only to be caught low down by Neil Broom at long on off young seamer Jimmy Neesham.
Guptill dominated a stand of 88 for the second wicket with Mahmood, who assumed the major responsibility once the international departed, before finishing unbeaten on 79 with six fours and three sixes beside his name.
An experiment to open with pinch hitter Neil Wagner did not pay any dividends for the Volts as they chased a sizeable target, the South African managing just four when Kyle Mills had him caught by Bruce Martin.
Martin then featured at the bowling crease to inflict a significant blow as the left-arm spinner bowled the dangerous McCullum for 26 off 18 in the seventh over.
That sparked a collapse of four wickets for five runs and thereafter the Volts were never in it.
Opener Aaron Redmond soon followed McCullum for 27 off 17 when Ronnie Hira completed a smart caught and bowled and the Volts’ slim hopes were as good as dead at 54 for four.
They certainly did not improve any further when it became 56 for five inside nine overs after Martin struck again by inducing an edge from the bat of Craig Cumming.
The lower order could not dig them out of the huge hole and they never threatened although Dmitri Mascarenhas and Nathan McCullum at least saw them complete their 20 overs by scoring 43 not out off 28 and 37 off 25 respectively.
Left-arm slow bowler Hira impressed with the ball for the Aces, finishing with three for 17 off the four overs with Martin also to the fore with two for 29 off his four.