Cricket: Volts nail final-over thriller

Otago has gone to the top of the table after a heart-stopping win over Auckland at Eden Park in their HRV Cup clash last night.

The visiting side chased down a target of 191 with two balls to spare. The victory leaves Otago in a prime spot to make the playoffs in the twenty/20 competition. The Volts needed 14 runs from the last 12 balls and just six from the final over. It seemed they might stumble at the final hurdle with two wickets falling, but a couple of lusty blows from Michael Bracewell in the final over got them over the line.

Playing at Eden Park always pushes up the score as the boundaries are short on the straight hit and bowlers are punished in big numbers should they go too full or too wide.

So although a target of 191 in 20 overs was tough it was attainable.

The victory was set up by an explosive start from the Otago opening pair of Neil Broom and Hamish Rutherford who put 31 on the board after just three overs. They more than doubled that at the end of six overs, getting to 72, and Otago was in cruise control.

Rutherford brought up his 50 in the eighth over and the century partnership was brought up halfway through the ninth over. Broom then matched his partner in bringing up a 50.

Rutherford then ran himself out with a sloppy bit of work, Broom went the same way and Otago got the speed wobbles.

The scoring rate started to balloon but Otago in the end timed its run to perfection.

Auckland had made a disastrous start to its innings with key import Phil Mustard run out on the second ball of the match. Lou Vincent looked for a quick single but then changed his mind. Mustard was left in no-man's land and ended up being caught short when Otago broke the stumps.

Vincent quickly put that behind him and immediately started finding the boundary. He and Gareth Hopkins quickly brought up 50 in the fifth over.

It was looking bleak for the Volts but Hopkins (33) skied a ball a mile high and Aaron Redmond showed composure to take the catch and break an ominous-looking partnership.

Vincent (36) had earlier been dropped by Nick Beard but it did not come at too big a cost as he holed out at the start of the ninth over.

Otago's bowling was a mixed bag, with spinner Beard far and away the best of the lot.

He darted the ball in, and did not allow the Auckland batsmen the chance to free their arms.

His four overs cost just 16 runs and he should have grabbed a stumping but skipper Derek de Boorder could not hold on to the ball.

The other Otago bowlers failed to find enough consistency but it is hard to get respectable figures on a ground which has boundaries a five-year-old could find with ease.

Ian Butler started well but conceded 20 in his final over while James Fuller was also punished at times.

Auckland should have scored more but lost Anaru Kitchen, who top-scored with 66, and Colin de Grandhomme (29), in the 18th over which cost it at the death of the innings.

Auckland captain Hopkins had earlier won the toss and decided to bat.

Otago will fly back to Dunedin today to take on Central Districts at the University Oval tomorrow afternoon.