Cricket: Otago stumbles but gets home against CD

Ian Butler
Ian Butler
Otago has just one more chance to lose a game before it is too late.

The Volts have marched into the final of the twenty/20 tournament on the back of a remarkable eight-game winning-streak.

Its latest win came against the hapless Central Districts at Pukekura Park yesterday. The three-wicket win with four balls to spare was hardly convincing. A batting collapse threatened to deprive the team victory but Ian Butler (32 off 17) and James Fuller (14 off eight) held their nerve to help seal the win.

So far this season Otago has won ugly, it has won convincingly, it has had its share of luck and it has even had a token loss. But that was to Northern Districts, on November 2. But yesterday's escape showed the team is far from invincible.

Winning is habit and coach Vaughn Johnson is not planning on making any unnecessary adjustments for the side's remaining round-robin against Canterbury in Dunedin tomorrow, even if it is a dead rubber.

It is the last chance for the team to smooth any wrinkles before the final at the University Oval on Sunday.

''It is actually a very important game, in terms of getting our structures and balance right as a side,'' Johnson said.

''We won't be experimenting at all. We'll be keeping to our same structures and will try and keep that winning formula.''

As for the narrow win, Johnson responded: ''I think it does more for the team's confidence in terms of knowing that when we are under the cosh we can still come through and win tight games like that.''

Otago's bowling attack will be boosted by the arrival of former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee today. He is flying over to play one game for the province so he will be available should Otago qualify for the lucrative Champions League in India.

Judging by yesterday's performance, the Volts are not in desperate need of his skills.

Otago produced a clinical performance with Butler taking three wickets for 28 runs to help restrict Central to 163 for seven.

Nick Beard, Ryan ten Doeschate and Jacob Duffy all conceded fewer than 30 runs, which was is quite some achievement at Pukekura Park.

There are sections in central Auckland which are larger than the picturesque venue.

Fuller (none for 53) was the only Otago bowler who was really clobbered. Big Kieran Noema-Barnett did his best to rescue his side's ponderous innings with some heavy hitting at the death and Fuller was in the way.

Noema-Barnett was ran out trying to scamper back for a second off the last ball. His 47 off 20 deliveries was an outstanding display of power hitting. Jeet Raval, though, top-scored for Central with 49 from 39 and How got the home side off to a reasonable start with 31 from 25.

Otago made a rapid start to its reply with Hamish Rutherford flogging 36 off 19 deliveries and Neil Broom scoring 32 of 25.

But quick wickets put the brakes on the run rate and the innings threatened to unravel when the ever-reliable ten Doeschate (23 from 20) hit out and captain Derek de Boorder was dismissed first ball.

At the Basin Reserve, Wellington booked a spot in the playoffs with a nine-run win against Northern Districts.

The competition's leading scorer Jesse Ryder continued his impressive form with an unbeaten 85 off 65 to guide his side to 181 for one. Michael Papps also played a key role with an unbeaten 65 off 42.

Northern got behind the required run rate but did its best to catch up with James Marshall blazing 53 from 27 deliveries and James Foster scoring 33 from 21.

But the visitor could not quite get there, finishing on 172 for five.

In the other match, Auckland kept its playoff hopes alive with a four-wicket win against Canterbury at Rangiora.

Canterbury posted a competitive 182 for four with opener George Worker whacking an unbeaten 89 from 60 deliveries with Andrew Ellis chipping in with 40 from 18 and Gareth Andrew swatting 14 from four deliveries at the death.

Matt Quinn was the pick of the Auckland bowlers with three for 35 from his four overs and a 73-run partnership by Colin de Grandhomme (36 off 23) and Craig Cachopa (37 off 26) put the Aces in the box seat.

All-rounder Donovan Grobbelaar smashed 24 from seven deliveries to seal the win with three balls to spare, when it looked as if Canterbury had wrestled the momentum after the brilliant run out of Cachopa and the wicket of de Grandhomme.