Cricket: Home final on the cards

Otago has won six games on the trot and is a win or two away from securing a home twenty/20 final. The Volts last won the tournament in 2008-09 and cricket writer Adrian Seconi highlights five reasons why they can repeat that effort this summer.

Twenty/20 is a batsman's game and Otago has batted with more aggression and more consistency than the other five teams. The Volts are averaging 180.71 runs a game - the highest in the tournament. They have passed 200 once this season and have posted three scores in the 190s. Wellington has scored more runs but it has played one more match.

It is also worth noting when Otago has hit more boundaries than its opponent, it has won, with the exception of the five-wicket win against Auckland at Eden Park. And on that occasion, the difference was just one boundary.

In total, Otago has scored 158 boundaries (53 sixes and 105 fours).

Otago has batted first in five out of seven games and won every time. That success can be put down to a combination of some good batting efforts or, when needed, some gutsy bowling displays.

Openers Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom have tended to set a good platform. But when they have missed out, the ever-reliable Ryan ten Doeschate has combined with a cast of others to help turn the match around.

When all else has failed, strike bowlers Jacob Duffy and James Fuller and left-arm spinner Nick Beard have made crucial breakthroughs or come up with a tight over right on cue. They have taken 28 wickets between them and Beard has been at his frugal best, conceding an average of 6.27 runs each over.

Since ten Doeschate and Fuller have joined the team, the Volts have not lost. The camp is riding a six-game winning streak.

It has not always been easy, though. Otago has had to battle back from some tight situations. The team had slumped to 41 for four against Northern Districts but rallied to win by 11 runs, and Duffy produced a stunning last over to help seal a dramatic one-run win against Canterbury in Timaru.

But there have been some comprehensive wins, as well. Otago creamed Wellington by 82 runs two days before Christmas and crushed Central Districts by 93 runs on Sunday.

Barring an alarming slump in form, Otago should be able to secure a home final.

Twenty/20 often comes down to a duel between the best player on each side. Well, Otago can breathe easy because in ten Doeschate it has the greatest finisher in the tournament. He has eviscerated the country's bowling attacks with 318 runs at an average of 79.50 and a magnificent strike rate of 168.25.

Wellington's Jesse Ryder has been more punishing but ten Doeschate is the better all-round player. He has been under-utilised at the bowling crease so far, but is more than capable with the ball. He is also a sharp fielder and his leadership skills have been invaluable for young captain Derek de Boorder.

If everything goes to plan, Otago should sweep into the final. The Volts have three round-robin matches remaining and enjoy a four-point buffer at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Two of their three remaining games are against the two bottom-placed teams.

Canterbury (fifth) is a dangerous match-up but Central Districts (sixth) has been woeful this summer.

The toughest encounter is against Wellington tonight. Should Otago beat Wellington and Canterbury upset Northern Districts in the other match, Otago will host the final, regardless of what happens in its remaining matches.

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