AUCKLAND HEARTS RECLAIM
HALLYBURTON JOHNSTONE SHIELD
2019/20 GRAND FINAL
Auckland Hearts beat Northern Spirit by 67 runs
Seddon Park, Hamilton
14 March 2020
Total runs scored: 577
A maiden century to veteran Arlene Kelly capped a memorable Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Grand Final for the Auckland Hearts as they trumped top qualifier Northern Spirit to lift their third title in the space of six years — joining Auckland's Aces as national one-day champions in New Zealand this summer.
Until this season, bowling allrounder Kelly (below; PHOTOSPORT) had never so much as scored a half-century in her seven summers in domestic cricket for the Hearts but, moving up the order after the Hearts lost the services of Natasha van Tilburg earlier this summer has paid big dividends for her side.
After an unbeaten 93* earlier in this campaign — her first and only previous half century (against the Central Hinds at Colin Maiden Park) today she pushed on to 110 as Hearts records were rewritten in a powerhouse batting display.
After Peterson won the toss and elected to bat, the team reached a hefty 322 for five — matching the Hearts’ best-ever one-day score of 322 for eight, set against Wellington Blaze at Karori Park in 2014/15.
It had already shaded their previous best against Northern Spirit — surpassed when the side reached 287 for three; and was powered by a Hearts record second-wicket stand of 169 between cool-headed Kelly and aggressive opener Lauren Down (below) that blew away the 2014/15 mark of 153 that had been set against the Sparks by Sam Curtis and Sara McGlashan.
No stranger to a Grand Final, Down plundered her way to 90 off just 86 balls (7x4, 2x6) after leading the recovery with Kelly - after Spirit’s Lily Mulivai had made an early breakthrough, Saachi Shahri caught behind in just the fifth over.
Northern Spirit's hopes of a fairytale first final appeared to be rapidly evaporating as the Hearts pair showed all their big-match experience, Kelly reaching her ton off 114 balls (10 x 4) before adding a 71-run partnership for the third wicket with WHITE FERN Katie Perkins (below).
She was finally stumped after charging Lauren Heaps in the 43rd over, and departed to empassioned applause from her teammates and an embrace from captain Peterson as the skipper headed out to the middle in her stead at 264 for three.
Heaps (2-56) and Spirit captain Leydon-Davis picked up a couple of wickets at the death, but the horse had bolted, and they were by now in sheer damage control mode.
Having passed the 300-mark for just the second time in their history, the Hearts had needed 12 off the last two overs to reach their highest ever one-day total, but a tight 49th over from Heaps — that saw Perkins (above) caught for a 50-ball 63 off the first delivery — almost saw them fall short in the statistical diversion.
Grand Final debutantes the Spirit now needed a record of their own in response if they were to win their maiden national title — their previous best tally against the Hearts having been 236 for five, back in 2007/08. Only once before had they surpassed 300 in the competition as a whole, at the St Paul’s Collegiate ground in their own record run-fest last summer.
A remarkable first wicket falls - and it's the big one of Katie Gurrey. Outstanding reaction & grab from @aucklandcricket's young star Bella Armstrong. Just not Northern Spirit's day today! #HBJShield pic.twitter.com/1lQQRgn0x6— #NZIII (@MargotButcher) March 14, 2020
Katie Gurrey (below) was Spirit’s top run-scorer of the regular season with an outstanding 566 from 10 innings. Today she was the first wicket to fall in the chase, undone by a wretched piece of luck — a well directed Holly Huddleston bouncer catching her glove and ballooning up for lightning-quick slip Bella Armstrong to dive forward at full stretch, the youngster just in time to scoop up a brilliant catch.
The wicket brought captain Leydon-Davis (below) to the middle at the end of the sixth over to lead a cautious, second-wicket recovery that reached 70 before youngster Olivia Lobb was stumped.
Leydon-Davis would remain at her post for the rest of the match, however, before becoming the final wicket to fall when she was run out in the 45th over.
She had not only scored her second one-day century, but brought down the required rate in a daunting chase with her nicely paced 124 off just 120 balls, 12x4, a cracking six to bring up her half century, 160 minutes of grit - in a fighting captain's knock.
On any other day, that effort would have stopped the ship from sinking, 255 all out becoming Spirit's new highest total against the Hearts in its 20-year one-day history between the northern neighbours.
Alas, too many wickets had fallen for the hosts. After her dismissal ended the game, the home captain walked off Seddon Park crestfallen, even with heartfelt home applause.
She had given her side an unlikely chance in one of the great Hallyburton Johnstone finales - the first time Northern Spirit had made the big dance, but the fairytale finish for her ground-breaking side was not to be.
Felicity Leydon-Davisâ€™s heroic knock comes to an end, run out on 124. Congratulations to the @aucklandcricket Hearts, #HBJShield champions once more with a 67-run win 🏏 #ndtogether #cricketnation pic.twitter.com/UAggmsTq4p— Northern Districts (@ndcricket) March 14, 2020
Said winning Hearts captain Anna Peterson, "It was probably the most nerve-wracking game I've ever played in. 'Floss' (Leydon-Davis) put up a pretty big fight."
Of Kelly's maiden century after moving up the order this season, Peterson said the team was "so stoked for Arlene. It's been a great season for her all round.
"We had lost Tash van Tilburg earlier this season when she went to England, and we talked about finding someone who could handle swing early, and could handle pace, and that was Arlene.
"She has opened before in club cricket, so we knew she could do a job at the top of the order; and, we knew that she is someone that, when she is given a task and a responsibility like that, she takes it seriously. I'm so glad we made that decision."
Said Kelly herself, "It was unreal. It's something I'll remember forever.
"I wanted to make the most of the opportunity, and Lauren Down is someone I really enjoy batting with. We knew we didn't have to do anything high-risk: we just had to build an innings, and it came off today."
Kelly also paid tribute to Spirit skipper Leydon-Davis's gutsy response with the bat.
"Credit to Felicity, it was an impressive innings. But we're a team that thrives on pressure situations and we knew we just had to remain composed. Left-arm spinner Fran Jonas (3-46) bowled exceptionally, our spinners were outstanding today."
Young Auckland Hearts pace bowler Bella Armstrong, just 20 (above), finished as the season's top wicket-taker with 24 wickets at an average of just 14.95 from 11 innings (including a national record haul of 7-18), just ahead of experienced Spirit spinner Eimear Richardson who finished with 22 at 19.90 from 10 innings.
Gurrey can be consoled by finishing as the top run-scorer for 2019/20 with 576 runs at an average of 72.00 (2x100, 4x50) from 11 innings, just ahead of consistent Canterbury Magicians captain Frankie Mackay (569 from seven innings at 94.83, 4x100, 1x50) and Leydon-Davis who finished with an aggregate of 421 at 52.62 from 10 innings (1x100, 2x50).
Today's aggregate of 577 runs in the Grand Final easily made it the highest scoring match of the one-day season, leaving behind the 543 runs scored by the Otago Sparks and Northern Spirit in Dunedin at the beginning of December.