WHITE FERNS captain Suzie Bates showed everyone how to win a clutch match as the Otago Sparks broke through in the T20 format and upended the red hot team to lift the T20 national trophy for the first time.
Hosts the Canterbury Magicians had been unbeaten all season in the T20 format, heading into the Final as defending champions and top qualifiers on their home turf in Rangiora.
Mags captain Frances Mackay won the toss and put the Sparks in — where Bates quickly got her team into a solid position with 74 off just 52 balls, despite an economical turn from with the ball from her opposing skipper (2-14 off four).
Despite a strong top order, she was doing it virtually single-handed with fellow WHITE FERNS aggressor Katey Martin, the first drop, the only other Sparks batsman to crack double figures in what was the Otago side's second ever appearance in a T20 trophy match.
Martin slammed a run-a-ball 21 before she was bowled by Jacinta Savage at the match’s midpoint, and from there wickets clattered all around Bates, Savage (2-19) quickly picking up another big name in Leigh Kasperek.
Bates, with her usual class and composure, batted into the last over as the Sparks made it through to 133 for six in their 20 overs, still needing a stellar bowling performance to back up that total against the strong Magicians unit.
They got it from tall left-arm schoolgirl rookie Kate Heffernan — the daughter of Silver Fern Annette Heffernan. The up-and-comer starred with 4-21 off her four overs, a new career best in her fledgling career. The star wicket was that of Amy Satterthwaite, whom she bowled, after having already removed Erin Bermingham — Satterthwaite’s 38 the Magicians’ top score in their reply.
But this was no walkover. The red and blacks managed to string together run-a-ball partnerships, then the hard-hitting Lea Tahuhu was left with the finisher job at the death, off-spinner Leigh Kasperek meanwhile ripping through the tail around her and escalating the pressure with wicket in each of the last two overs in a tight one.
Adding to the high drama at the death was the return to the batting crease of prodigious Mags opener Mackay, who had been felled early in the chase after being accidentally and painfully struck on the unprotected part of the wrist by the ball during an attempt to run out Amy Satterthwaite at the other end. With a suspected fracture, Mackay had retired hurt on 10 just two balls into the fifth over; now her team still needed her at the death and she gamely took on the challenge, but there would be only a further two runs from her bat before she was run out with one ball remaining in the match.
It was a tense, gripping finish, and a result few had predicted, the Sparks winning by just five runs for their maiden T20 title. Tahuhu was left unbeaten on a 15-ball 25.