Auckland Aces are the new HRV Cup champions after brilliantly evicting defending champions Central Stags with an inspired display of bowling and fielding today's final. Auckland, who won the toss and decided to bat first, posted a barely competitive score of 158 for eight but fought tooth and nail in the field to deny Central Districts by four runs.
While Central Districts dropped two easy catches through Ian Blackwell and Ross Taylor, Auckland fielded with venom and took every chance with Roneel Hira and Lou Vincent outstanding.
Auckland were two for 20 after swinging deliveries from Central medium pacer Doug Bracewell snared the key wickets of Martin Guptill and Lou Vincent who both departed after scoring four runs each.
Guptill drove hard at a full delivery and edged the ball to Ross Taylor at slip, then Vincent lofted a ball to Kieran Noema-Barnett at long-on. Jimmy Adams and Colin de Grandhomme then steadied the innings with a stand of 66 for the third wicket.
Jimmy Adams departed for 66 off 43 balls when he tried to hit spinner Ian Blackwell out of the park only to be caught by Jacob Oram at long off just after getting a life when he was dropped by Taylor.
But a 29 from Colin Munro, off 18 balls, helped Auckland top their score of 158 for eight.
The Stags were a shadow of the side that had beaten Auckland by eight wickets in the last match of the preliminary round last Wednesday to make today's final.
The wind was taken out of their sails in just the first over of their innings. Left arm medium pacer Michael Bates snared three wickets in the space of five balls to have Central rocked back on their heels at none for three.
Bates had Peter Ingram slashing wildly at his first delivery to be caught by Colin Munro at third man, Jamie How was caught by Vincent at slip with his third ball and then was on a hat-trick after dismissing Blackwell via a brilliant diving catch by Hira.
Taylor and Michael Yardy put on 51 runs for the fourth wicket before Yardy went for 21. Jacob Oram lasted but four balls for his two runs and a punch-drunk Central Districts were unable to break the shackles.
There was some lusty hitting by Kieran Noema-Barnett and Kruger van Wyk in the lower order but the damage caused by Bates' triple wicket maiden at the top of the innings was too much to repair despite a stand of 50 between van Wyk and Bracewell for the eighth wicket.