The Central Hinds turned the tables on defending national one-day champions the Auckland Hearts by claiming vital spoils in the second of their back-to-back, top-of-the-table clashes in Auckland this weekend.
The Hinds, chasing them in second spot on the table, became the first team all season to inflict a defeat on the Hearts who, the previous day, had become the first team to qualify for the 2019 Hallyburton Johnstone Shield. That had put the heat on the Hinds — with rivals Wellington Blaze also having won in Wellington on Saturday, in the race for what is now one remaining berth in the Final.
However, a well controlled six-wicket victory at a tinder-dry Melville Park on Sunday kept the Hinds in control of their own destiny, in young star Jess Watkin’s 50th one-day game for the team.
Two early breakthroughs by Nelson’s Claudia Green got the Hinds off on the right foot, with only WHITE FERN Katie Perkins — in her 100th match for the Hearts — getting away on them with a half century.
Regular wickets kept the rest of the dangerous Hearts unit under control, the Hinds bowling them out for 199, with a handful of overs to spare, and this after having been put in the field by the Hearts.
Watkin then marked her 50th cap match by getting her side off to strong reply with 43 off 49 balls at the top, but Roz McNeill denied her a half century to go with her milestone, in the 14th over.
Captain Anlo van Deventer joined Natalie Dodd at 60/1 and would reach 59 at almost run-a-ball pace, after a resilient partnership with Kerry Tomlinson (45*) who stuck around to bring home the win in the 47th over.
The victory capped an excellent day for Central Districts teams with the Central Stags winning the 2019 Burger King Super Smash crown and Nelson lifting the Hawke Cup on the same afternoon.
The Central Hinds will now head into their final two rounds in Palmerston North with a five-point lead over the Blaze, with a maximum 10 points now left available to each team before the Grand Final.
The Blaze and Sparks, with two wins from this weekend, are the only other sides with a mathematical chance, and the latter will face the Hinds in the Palmerston North showdown in a fortnight’s time for Rounds nine and 10 — when all sides will be missing their WHITE FERNS. Blaze will meanwhile likely face a stiff challenge in the final weekend of the regular season, away to the defending champion Hearts.