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