A masterpiece from Rob Nicol powered the Canterbury Wizards to victory in the final over of a HRV Cup Twenty20 slugfest against the Auckland Aces today.
Nicol launched an aerial bombardment as he plastered a domestic record nine sixes in an unbeaten 101 to steer the Wizards to 205 for three at Colin Maiden Park, overcoming the Aces’ imposing 202 for four with three balls to spare.
His maiden Twenty20 century occupied just 57 balls and overshadowed Azhar Mahmood’s 100 not out which had seen the Aces become the first team to top 200 in this season’s competition.
With the two teams meeting again in the final at the same venue on Sunday, the Wizards made a particular point of not being daunted at the runchase facing them.
To that end a robust opening stand of 85 between Nicol and George Worker proved crucial before Worker was dismissed leg before wicket in the eighth after over smacking 44 off 28 balls, with five fours and a brace of sixes.
Dean Brownlie then fronted with an important 39 off 22 as Nicol continued to clear the boundary in an arc from long on to square leg and the Wizards kept up with the testing required run rate throughout.
The Aces’ best with the ball was left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira, who ended with two for 23 off 3.3 overs, but it was a day for the batsmen.
Earlier, 37-year-old Pakistani import Mahmood deserved the major kudos after he paced his innings beautifully to raise three figures with a single off the final ball of the innings, the 61st he faced during an entertaining stay ignited with 10 fours and three sixes.
Mahmood was particularly brutal on anything inviting guidance on to the leg side and benefited from two dropped catches, both by wicketkeeper Reece Young, when he was on 39 and 89.
Skipper Gareth Hopkins helped Mahmood keep the runs coming at a rattling pace, striking 42 off 28 and Colin de Grandhomme 25 off 12 as the defending champion Aces made the most of a new pitch to be used again on Sunday.
Throughout the carnage offspinner George Worker and seamer Andrew Ellis did well to stem the bleeding, Worker finishing with two for 29 off three overs and Ellis ending with one for 31 off four.