Georgie Pie Super Smash 2015 is set for a thrilling conclusion after the Mondiale Auckland Aces booked their spot in tonight's Grand Final with a two-run win over the Canterbury Kings, via the Duckworth-Lewis System after rain shortened the second innings.
The Aces' victory sets up a contest between the two sides that have been the competition pacesetters from the start, with the Aces to take on the SBS Bank Otago Volts in what is sure to be an entertaining exhibit at Yarrow Stadium from 7.10pm this evening.
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The Aces will have been thankful for the Finals system, which saw the loser of the preliminary Qualifying Final between the first and second-placed teams get a second chance against the third-placed Kings.
With the Aces having had their run chase on the previous night against the Volts washed out, it meant they needed to beat the Kings to clinch their spot in the finale.
Despite the narrow margin on paper at the end of the night, the Aces had looked in control throughout the evening and had a dominating bowling display to thank for the victory.
Lacking an explosive individual innings that is often so crucial to Twenty20 cricket, the Kings were meanwhile always behind the six-ball as wickets fell regularly to an attack which performed well despite having been without injured veteran seamer Michael Bates (who suffered a prematch side strain).
It was the spinners who did the majority of the important damage, after the Kings had slowly navigated their way to 40/1 from the first seven overs
Needing some big hitting to boost the run rate, the Kings were instead slowed down by the spin options of Tarun Nethula and Rob Nicol.
The dangerous Henry Nicholls was dismissed in Nicol’s first over, with the spin duo only giving up singles as they strangled the Kings middle order.
The Aucklanders had effectively seized control of the match in the space of three balls, when first the experienced, fearless hitter that is Peter Fulton was caught on just five off Nicol, then Ronnie Hira departed for a first-ball duck to Nethula, caught first ball of the next over.
Andy Ellis went cheaply to be Nethula’s next victim – stumped – shortly after and, at 58/5 after 12 overs, the Kings’ hopes looked futile.
Nethula ended with a mean 2-13 from his four overs, while Nicol had 2-21 as they gave way for the quick bowlers to wrap up the rest of the Canterbury innings. For the Kings, the total left their backs against the wall when rain fatally intervened in the second innings.
Opener Cam Fletcher had his long battle ended on 33, but it was at slower than a run a ball as he was prevented from upping the tempo.
James Fuller (2-20) and Donovan Grobbelaar (3-23) swung in behind and taking the last five wickets to fall, Grobbelaar starring with two wickets in the 15th over, removing the stubborn Fletcher then diving for a fine caught and bowled to quickly account for Logan van Beek. Grobbelaar would go on to close the innings with the final wicket in the last over, three deliveries unused.
Only a Matt Henry cameo (23 from 10) took the Kings into three figures as they were all out for 113.
In response, the Aces took their chase nice and slow, Nicol (below) and Jeet Raval putting on 41 for the first wicket at exactly a run-a-ball to set a sound platform.
Henry went for only three from his opening two overs, and Todd Astle gave Canterbury some hope when claiming the wickets of Raval for 14, and Colin Munro for his first short stay of the campaign, out for two.
That reduced the Aces to 47/2, and when the rain came three runs later at 50/2 after 9.3 overs, the deserving Aces were narrowly two runs ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis system, clinching their berth in tonight’s finale.