A devastating display of fast bowling from Mitchell McClenaghan was the impetus behind the Mondiale Auckland Aces taking home the Georgie Pie Super Smash trophy for 2015, beating the SBS Bank Otago Volts by 20 runs in the Grand Final for a record fourth domestic T20 title.
A triple-wicket maiden from McClenaghan took apart what had been a brilliant start to the Volts’ run chase, with the Otago men chasing 167 to win after Aces opener Rob Nicol had earlier made an innings-defining 77 to set up a challenging target.
Nicol batted through to the final six balls of the innings, overcoming a severe bout of cramp in his vital captain’s knock on the Yarrow Stadium drop-in pitch.
Although nobody else surpassed 21 for the Aces, they all got their runs in relatively quick time, allowing partnerships to build, and setting the platform for some late hitting to post 166/6.
The Volts’ hopes were high after seamer Warren Barnes had taken two early wickets, removing Jeet Raval’s off stump before getting the dangerous Colin Munro to chop one onto to his own stumps cheaply.
With the players around him going at a run a ball, Nicol accelerated, taking 54 balls to make his 77, hitting eight fours and three sixes – including one which went out of the ground to bring up his 50.
Sporting his trademark finely-tuned moustache for the finals, Nicol’s only obstacle was cramp; going down in a Mark Richardson-esque world of agony during his innings. Earlier the Volts’ skipper Nathan McCullum had badly hurt his knee diving for what would have been an outstanding one-handed grab in a punishing day for the captains.
McCullum fought through the pain to take 1-20 from his three overs, and while Barnes (3-33) and Anaru Kitchen (four overs for 21) bowled well, a valuable cameo of 19 from 10 balls from Robbie O’Donnell saw the Aces through to a defendable total.
That total didn’t deter the Volts openers, however, with Kitchen and Hamish Rutherford roaring out of the blocks. Kitchen took 16 from three balls off a James Fuller over as the Volts established a perfect platform at 50/0 after five overs.
Then, McClenaghan struck.
Given the ball to start the sixth over, the BLACKCAPS quick was unplayable; getting Rutherford caught at square leg, before dismissing opening partner Kitchen the next ball, bowled off his pads.
Michael Bracewell took a leg bye to avoid the hat-trick ball, but Neil Broom made it three wickets in four balls by slicing a delivery straight to Raval at second slip: a triple wicket maiden that cost only a leg bye.
Just like that, the Volts went from favourites to underdogs as the McClenaghan triple wicket maiden special conjured up memories of Michael Bates’ similar feat in the 2011 final against the Devon Hotel Central Stags.
The damage was well and truly done as Tarun Nethula continued to tie down an end, going for just 17 off his four overs with the added bonus of claiming Bracewell’s wicket.
The last hope for the Volts was the internationally experienced duo of Jimmy Neesham and Nathan McCullum.
Both put up a good fight, but Nicol added to his batting feats by getting Neesham caught on the boundary for 21, and when McCullum departed later to an absolute stunner of a Colin de Grandhomme catch for 35, the rest was a formality.
The Volts, who had played so well through the competition, ended up 20 runs short of victory in the title fight, while the Aces made up for their loss at the final hurdle last season, earning a deserved trophy with a performance worthy of a Grand Final.