Otago Sparks captain Suzie Bates has put in a heroic performance with both bat and all to lead her side to a thrilling victory in the Women’s domestic One Day competition.
Playing the Auckland Hearts at their home ground Melville Park, Bates picked up a hatrick and scored 99 as the Sparks clawed their way to a three wicket victory with a ball to spare.
It’s the Hearts second heart-breaking loss in a final in two years, having been beaten by the Canterbury Hearts off the final ball last year,
Led by 90 from Sara McGlashan and an unbeaten 93 from Katie Perkins, the Hearts posted a healthy total of 245 all out after 49.5 overs. Momentum swung regularly during the second innings, but through Bates, Victoria Abbott (66) and a late unbeaten 23 from Caitlin Blakely the Sparks prospered, albeit off the penultimate ball.
With both Bates and Abbott established at the crease and with their side at 199 for three, the Sparks seemed to be cruising towards the trophy. The Hearts though got a lifeline in the 42nd over, when Abbott departed with her side still needing 47 runs.
Matters got worse for the southerners when Bates was dismissed three overs later. The recently named ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year was bowled by Paula Gruber just one run away from her ton – it was a devastating blow for Bates and the Sparks hopes.
The Hearts now had the momentum, but one felt it was always going to be a grandslam finish.
Blakely took the reins for the Sparks, playing sensibly with 23 from 26 balls. She was well aided by Polly Inglis (13), before she and Sarah Osborne sent their team into ecstasy off the second to last ball.
It was a tremendous chase that ebbed and flowed throughout. It marked a remarkable turnaround from the Sparks, who now have something to add to their trophy cabinet after a long period of rebuilding.
Earlier, McGlashan and Perkins had put on 142 for the fourth wicket to set up a fantastic platform for their side to launch from.
McGlashan, whose been in prolific form this season, was at her dynamic best, with her knock coming from just 80 balls and including 11 fours. Her departure in the 34th over slowed down the Hearts somewhat, but Perkins was still keeping things ticking along.
At the other end though she wasn’t getting mush help. The Sparks were taking wickets regularly, accentuated when Bates became the fifth person in the competition to take a hatrick. While against predominantly lower-order batsmen, it continued to undo the home side’s good work from earlier.
Perkins remained and notched up her career high score, but was sadly trapped seven short of a century. She had however helped her side to very respectable total – unfortunately it wouldn’t quite be enough.
Bates finished with figures of 3-40 from her nine overs, while Emma Campbell had 3-47 from ten. The Sparks had done well to restrict the Hearts after they’re strong start – it may well have been the difference.
The Twenty20 final is on Sunday from 2pm at Melville Park, between the Hearts and the Canterbury Wizards..