A nail-biting one-wicket home victory over the Canterbury Magicians on Waitangi weekend Sunday ensured the Auckland Hearts will have a chance to defend their title when they host a home final at Melville Park in the national Women’s One-Day competition in one week's time, on Saturday 13 February (10.30am start).
Batting first, Amy Satterthwaite's Magicians looked to be cruising, run machine openers Satterthwaite and Frances Mackay happily making their way through and beyond a hundred-run partnership.
Yet things went south quickly for the southerners, as wickets tumbled in quick succession. After Satterthwaite and Mackay had helped themselves to 56 and 41 respectively, no other Magician could get into double figures.
The Hearts did very well as a pack, and a range of bowlers claimed the wickets. Holly Huddleston, Roz McNeill, Georgia Guy and Anna Peterson all helped themselves to two wickets each.
Huddleston’s first wicket was also her 50th for Auckland in One-Day matches.
That lop-sided batting effort saw the Cantabrians eventually bundled out for a lean 142.
In reply, the Hearts had some rough patches in their chase.
Despite having only 142 to aim at, all of the top order found it hard to get going.
Following in Canterbury’s batting missteps, no Heart could get past 20 — until skipper Victoria Lind, who was batting at eight. When she did arrive at the crease, she had a lot of work to do, the score listing at 39/6.
Lind had to nurse the Hearts back into the match with the help of the tailenders. Her key partnership was with Arlene Kelly and the duo set a record for the eighth wicket for Auckland.
Together they put on 58, getting their side firmly back into contention. After Kelly’s wicket, Lind finished things off with Guy and McNeill to see the Hearts sneak victory by a wicket in the final over — and into the 2016 Final on Saturday 13 February.
The Hearts will play Wellington Blaze in the Final as, even if the Blaze lose in the final round this Monday 8 February, and the Magicians manage to win with a bonus point, both teams will have the same number of wins, but Blaze will have more bonus points on the table.
Consolation for the Blaze perhaps, after having missed out on defending their Twenty20 title by a whisker on Waitangi Day.
In Saturday's other two matches, wet weather continued to frustrate the Central Hinds and Northern Spirit at Cobham Oval, Whangarei, where the game was abandoned without a ball bowled.
In Dunedin, at University Oval, Wellington Blaze avenged their T20 loss at the same ground a day earlier with a comfortable six-wicket win over the SBS Bank Otago Sparks.
With the Finalists already having been found, four teams were left playing for pride and a positive finish to the domestic season in Waitangi weekend Monday's three matches.
Spirit certainly did that when the weather behaved in Whangarei long enough for them to defeat the Central Hinds by three wickets.
After a tough start that saw the Hinds lurch to 46/5, Kelly Rangi produced a career best unbeaten 87 after she combined with WHITE FERN Hannah Rowe (likewise a career best 47) to get their partnership through to 166 for six, the Hinds eventually reaching 187 for seven in their 50 overs.
Their stand was a new record sixth wicket partnership for the Central Hinds. Previous best was 94 by Aimee Watkins and Rangi versus Auckland in 2010/11.
Newly recalled WHITE FERN Felicity Leydon-Davis had been the head Spirit wicket-taker with 3-28 and a hand in a run out, before her team turned around and gave the Hinds a lesson in how to string enough partnerships together across the innings to trump such an effort, getting across the line in the 48th over for just their second win of the season.
In Dunedin the Otago Sparks also completed their summer with a three-wicket win, the highlight of which was a strong all-round performance from captain Suzie Bates. Bates took 3-35 off her ten after Blaze captain Sophie Devine had opted for a bat, then contributed a quick run-a-ball half century at the top of the order in reply to get the Sparks' chase off to a flier.
Devine (43) had top-scored in the Blaze's 195 all out, the team having been dismissed in the penultimate over as Morna Nielsen (2-34) and England import Lauren Marsh (3-31) zeroed in. A solid 60 from Polly Inglis, batting at five, made sure the chase did not waver as the Sparks closed their season with their fourth One-Day win.
At Hagley Oval the Canterbury Magicians completed their One-Day season in handsome style by crushing defending champions the Auckland Hearts. The Hearts were already in the Final once more but that didn't make a seven-wicket drubbing in the final round taste any better.
Katie Perkins' unbeaten half century at four, with early support from Sara McGlashan (25), stopped it from being even worse for the Aucklanders before they were despatched inside 40 overs, but the Hearts were never going to defend 123 against the Magicians.
Magicians captain Amy Satterthwaite wrapped it up to take her figures to 3-34, then stormed to an unbeaten 70 off just 50 balls (10 fours and a six among them) to make no question of the result. Thamsyn Newton chipped in at the end with a quick 31 as the Magicians won the game in just 16 overs.