Rob Nicol led Canterbury to a thrilling five-run win over Wellington in their HRV Cup match at Timaru today, keeping alive hopes of a spot in the final.
Nicol pasted the Wellington Firebirds bowlers all around Aorangi Oval in scoring 85 from just 48 balls, an innings which included nine fours and four sixes, setting up Canterbury's imposing total of 207 for six.
Wellington were on track for victory when an in-form Jesse Ryder and Luke Wright brought up their second opening partnership of more than 100 runs in three days, but when Englishman Wright departed for a brilliant 64 off just 29 balls, and Ryder was dismissed soon after for an equally impressive 59 off 33, Wellington's chase stuttered.
They ended up falling five runs short in a high-scoring affair but they lost just four wickets and the flight home will be a sombre one knowing their title hopes have suffered a big blow.
Wellington medium pacer Ronald Karaitiana was the outstanding wicket-taker on a tough day for the bowlers, taking his second successive four-wicket haul in the competition with four for 45 from four overs.
Canterbury moved up to fourth on 16 points, just two behind Northern Knights and Central Stags who share second spot with two rounds remaining. Wellington are fifth on 14 points, still with hope of reaching the January 2 final but now reliant on other results.