Mondiale Auckland Aces 174 (Colin Munro 52, Donovan Grobbelaar 38, James Franklin 2-9) lost to Wellington Firebirds 177 (Brad Hodge 84, Matthew Taylor 31, Tarun Nethula 2-26) by six wickets at Eden Park, Auckland.
The most dramatic match of the competition started with Martin Guptill being caught first ball of the match by Tom Blundell from Luke Fletcher's bowling for a duck, then Rob Nicol going caught by Michael Pollard from the last ball of the same over. Colin Munro decided attack was the best response to the early losses and launched into the bowling, clubbing a series of sixes into the stands, including his signature switch-hit over the cover boundary.
He made his 50 from 23 balls, but left shortly afterwards for 52, including two fours and an incredible six sixes. de Grandhomme (23), Brad Cachopa (18) and Donovan Grobbelaar (38) continued in the same spirit to take the Aces to 174. Luke Fletcher was the pick of the Firebirds bowlers, his figures of 2-28 including a final over where he took some punishment.
Micheal Pollard backed up from Guptill to lose his wicket first ball of the Firebirds innings, giving Grobbelaar a catch from Kyle Mills. Some tight Aces bowling, including Tarun Nethula (who had 2-26 and picked up Matthew Taylor and Stephen Murdoch) had the visitors 4-64 in the tenth over when Murdoch departed and looking unlikely to get up.
But experienced Australian pro Brad Hodge was having none of it and put on a Twenty20 batting masterclass, hitting cleanly and powerfully into gaps and over fielders to bring his side back into the match. His seven fours and seven sixes were decisive and the Aces bowlers had no reply. The Aces needed 37 from the last three overs and did it with ease, getting home with a whole over to spare.
The Aces still sit above the Firebirds but only just, and there will be more movement with both teams playing triple headers this weekend at Eden Park.