A brilliant contest between the slick Auckland Hearts and stellar Otago Sparks was destined for a jumble of joy and heartbreak at the death of the most dramatic match of the 2016/17 Women’s One-Day competition so far.
Sparks captain Katey Martin was right in the thick of it with her fourth One-Day domestic century for her team — a smashing 114 off just 90 balls (13 fours, one six). But the thrills would turn to custard after she was run out by young Hearts debutante Saachi Shahri off the last delivery of the 49th over — leaving another four runs to be found off the final over.
The Sparks had been chasing down the Hearts’ healthy 261 for seven on Lincoln No.3 in the round five match, Martin’s aggression crucially lifting the scoring rate to get them within touching distance of the defending champions.
But the Hearts clamped down in the last over, pace ace Holly Huddleston slamming down five dot balls in a row — leaving Vic Holden frustrated and aghast after an unbeaten 39 off 42 balls that had helped raise a 101-run stand for the sixth wicket with Martin.
With a four now needed from the last ball to win, or three to tie, Holden would be permitted just a single, the Hearts bounding with delight at a clutch two-run win in the big-scoring match.
The win meant they held onto second place on the table in an unforgettable finish.
Earlier, opener Lauren Down had top-scored for the Hearts after they opted to bat first. Down racked up her 75 from 98 balls in a 65-run opening stand with Anna Peterson, who contributed a quick 30 at the top before being bowled by Morna Nielsen.
Maddy Green then stepped in at three in a strong Hearts top order, followed by Katie Perkins continuing her resurgent form with the bat. Perkins smashed 52 off just 39 balls and with captain Vic Lind (37 off 43) dropping down to five it just didn’t get any easier for the Sparks despite Leigh Kasperek chipping away in the wickets column.
WHITE FERNS off-spinner Kasperek continued a solid return from her broken spinning finger at the start of the season, picking up the big wickets of Down, Green and Perkins in her 3-37, then opened and anchored the reply from the Sparks with 46 from 75 balls.
Martin entered the action at 69 for one in the 16th over and showed both the aggression and temperament required to keep the Sparks in it despite losing a clutch of middle order partners — taking a thriller almost down to the wire. Almost.