Cricket: Sparks' hopes of final spot doused

The Otago Sparks' hopes of reaching the domestic Twenty/20 final have been doused with a 13-run loss to Wellington in Lincoln yesterday.

Both sides went into the fixture with two wins from three matches. With just five round-robin games before the January 13 final, the game shaped as a semifinal.

The home side posted a competitive 126 for five, with Lauren Ebsary top-scoring with a hard-hit 43 from 28 deliveries. Lucy Doolan added 32 at the top of the innings and Suzie McDonald chipped in with 21.

Otago struggled to keep up with the required run rate. With two overs remaining the visitors needed an unlikely 27 runs to snatch victory.

All-rounder Victoria Abbott blasted an unbeaten 33 runs from 33 deliveries to help the Sparks reach 113 for six.

White Ferns and Sparks captain Suzie Bates scored 31 from 32 and Sarah Tsukigawa scored 22.

''We didn't bat well enough in our top five,'' Sparks coach Warren Lees said.

''We let it get to nine an over too early. You can get nine an over for three or so overs but you need wickets in hand.''

Michelle Bunkall was the pick of the Wellington bowlers with three for 13 from four overs, and Sian Ruck took one for 15 from four overs.

Tsukigawa was arguably the best of the Otago seamers with no wickets for 19 from four overs.

In other games, Northern Districts beat Central Districts by seven wickets to post its first win of the tournament, and Canterbury remains unbeaten after dispatching Auckland by 23 runs.

Otago plays Wellington in back-to-back one-day games during the next two days.