Cricket: Otago wins seven in row to secure home final

Derek de Boorder
Derek de Boorder
Seven straight wins - and Otago will host the HRV Cup final.

That was the rather pleasant situation in which the Volts found themselves last night after a perfect pair of results.

Otago beat Wellington by 12 runs at the Basin Reserve, following an exceptional bowling display, and Canterbury upset Northern Districts in Hamilton.

That has left Otago clear at the top of the table on 28 points. It has two games in hand and cannot be caught by Wellington or Northern (both 20 points, with one game to play).

Regardless of the results against Central (tomorrow, in New Plymouth) and Canterbury (Tuesday, University Oval), Otago will host the final in Dunedin on Sunday, January 20.

It is just reward for the Volts' dominance of the twenty/20 game this summer. Yesterday, when they scored 170 for six and strangled the Firebirds with tight bowling, was another indication this is a team that knows how to win.

With the so-called experts claiming a score of 200 was needed in excellent conditions, Otago failed to pass 180 for just the second time in its past six games.

Derek de Boorder (67 off 44 balls) played the anchor role in the innings, and the captain then directed a bowling attack that throttled the Firebirds for large chunks of their innings.

Wellington's chase got off to a flyer, Jesse Ryder and Tamim Iqbal getting to 18 without loss after two overs.

Ryder hit the first ball of the third over for four but was bowled by James Fuller the next ball.

Former Black Caps opener Michael Papps scratched out one off eight balls before being caught on the boundary off Jimmy Neesham's first delivery.

Iqbal slowed up as the Otago bowlers got on top, and fell for 41 (38 balls) in Nick Beard's first over, and Cameron Borgas laboured to 35 off 39.

There were some flutters when Luke Ronchi (20 off nine) got going, and full-blown palpitations when Grant Elliott (36 off 18) provided late fireworks, but the game was probably already won.

Neesham (two for 26 off four) and Ian Butler (none for 23 off four) were the misers-in-chief.

Otago, having won the toss and elected to bat, got off to a typically rollicking start through Hamish Rutherford.

The free-swinging left-hander cracked 32 off 20 balls, with three fours and a six, before he fell to a sizzling catch from Jesse Ryder.

Neil Broom (13) and Nathan McCullum (14) - the latter run out by a direct hit from a Scott Kuggeleijn throw - failed to get going, meaning star import Ryan ten Doeschate would again be asked to spark the innings.

The Dutch international worked himself in but, having eased to nine off 12 balls, he was denied an opportunity to push on when he hit a ball hard but straight to Ili Tugaga. It was a rare failure for ten Doeschate, who had passed 50 in four of his six innings for the Volts.

His departure came in the middle of a flat period for Otago, which struggled to find the boundary - there was just one four between the 14th and 17th overs.

De Boorder, however, kept noodling the ball around. He passed his previous high twenty/20 score of 38 and raised a debut half century in the format.

Michael Bracewell (21 off 14) and Neesham (eight not out off three) added some impetus as the Volts scored 39 off the last three overs.

Northern Districts came up short chasing Canterbury's total of 184 in Hamilton last night.

Tom Latham top-scored for the visiting side with 52 from 29 balls, including three sixes. Canterbury then seemed to be cruising to a win before a late flurry from ND got it to 176 for eight.

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