Volts keep working out ways to win

Otago coach Dion Ebrahim watches over training at the University Oval yesterday. PHOTO: PETER...
Otago coach Dion Ebrahim watches over training at the University Oval yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Otago beat the odds and made it into the Ford Trophy elimination final where they will host Auckland at the University Oval today. Cricket writer Adrian Seconi catches up with Volts coach Dion Ebrahim ahead of the big match.

Otago are two games away from glory.

For most of the month they have been one loss away from obscurity.

The Volts stretched hope about as far as you can before it snaps in despair.

They were on the cusp of being eliminated thanks to a humbling eight-wicket loss (DLS method) to Canterbury in Rangiora.

But they beat the odds, winning four consecutive games, and will host Auckland in the Ford Trophy elimination final today.

How did they do it?

Luck? Resilience? Doggedness?

All of the above, probably.

But Volts coach Dion Ebrahim would put a willingness to learn near the top of the list.

"We know there are games we will lose and games we’ll win," he said.

"But the guys are young, they are hungry and they are prepared to learn.

"And it is ensuring, that as a team, we keep getting better each time. There is a genuine desire by the team to do that."

"The guys had to dig deep in different situation and different people have stood up and we’ve won in slightly different ways."

They sure have.

Following that disappointing loss to Canterbury, the Volts limped to what seemed like a below-par total of 213 for nine against Central Districts in Dunedin.

It was not going to be anywhere near enough. Except it was plenty in the end.

Andrew Hazeldine bounced and yorked his way to a maiden five-wicket bag and Ben Lockrose and Jacob Duffy teamed up to take the other five to help dismiss the defending champions for 148.

Hazeldine played a critical role with bat later in the week.

The Volts had slumped to 147 for nine against Wellington at the Basin Reserve.

But the fiery left-armer, who bats right-handed, thumped an undefeated 54 from 26 balls in an Otago record 79-run stand for the 10th wicket with Jacob Duffy (27).

Still, 226 probably should not have been enough. Except it was ... again.

Another unlikely hero emerged. Luke Georgeson claimed five for 37 to help seal a tense 15-run win.

It was his maiden list A five-wicket bag and it came against his old team.

Duffy (three for 32) spearheaded the six-wicket win against Northern Districts in Queenstown on Valentine’s Day.

And Georgeson was back dismissing his former team-mates in the next one. He took five for 11 to help rout Wellington for just 57 — a New Zealand record-low list A score.

Incredibly, Otago has taken all 40 wickets in the past four games. The Volts’ attack, Duffy aside, would not have registered on many people’s radar as a major threat beforehand.

Auckland will be without Black Caps trio Finn Allen, Mark Chapman and Lockie Ferguson. Allen, in particular, is a big loss.

He blasted 137 from 62 balls in a T20 against Pakistan at the University Oval in mid-January. He also swatted 168 off 110 balls against the Volts at Eden Park Outer Oval early in the tournament.

Everyone in the Volts’ attack will have slept easier last night.

Otago, meanwhile, are unchanged.

"The timing is good but we are confident in the way we are playing that we’ve earned out place," Ebrahim said.

The Volts batting order might be a little sensitive about their contribution, though.

Thorn Parkes (298 at 59.60) has been a reliable presence in the middle order. But he is one of the few players in the top six to have enhanced his reputation.

"I think it would be very unfair on the batters to suggest the bowlers have pulled us out of the fire every time.

"An example of that would be that CD game. But what seemed to be an under-par score was actually a winning total.

"I’m confident our batters know how to get us to a winning total in different conditions."

Canterbury qualified top and will host Saturday’s final against the winner of today’s elimination final.

Elimination final

Dunedin, 10.30am today

Teams

Otago: Luke Georgeson, Jacob Cumming, Dean Foxcroft (captain), Dale Phillips, Thorn Parkes, Llew Johnson, Max Chu, Ben Lockrose, Andrew Hazeldine, Matt Bacon, Jacob Duffy, Travis Muller.

Auckland: Martin Guptill, Sean Solia (captain), Cole Briggs, Robbie O'Donnell, Will O'Donnell, Cameron Fletcher, Ryan Harrison, Jock McKenzie, Danru Ferns, Louis Delport, Ben Lister, Nikith Perera, Angus Olliver.

Record

Otago won 5, lost 3, 1 no result, 1 abandoned

Auckland won 6, lost 4

Head to head

Auckland won by seven wickets at Eden Park Outer Oval on Nov 29 

Otago won by 42 runs at Queens Park on Nov 25

Statistical leaders

Aces batter Robbie O’Donnell is the leading scorer in the competition. The 29-year-old right-hander has collected 457 runs at an average of 57.13. His brother,  Will O’Donnell (324 runs at 40.50), is No 8 on the list.

The Volts have leaned heavily on their bowling unit to deliver success. Luke Georgeson (15 wkts at 13.73) has rocketed up the list of wicket-takers thanks to two five-wicket hauls this month.

Key players

Otago seamer Jacob Duffy made a slow start to the campaign. But he has been threatening in the second half of the competition and he knows every blade of grass at the University Oval. Robbie O’Donnell is in majestic form and has been so consistent.

Timing is everything

The Volts have got used to operating without Black Caps star Glenn Phillips. But the Aces will be missing some serious firepower. Finn Allen, Mark Chapman and Lockie Ferguson are all on Black Caps duty. 

Form

The Volts won their last four games and managed to take all 40 wickets in the process, while the Aces pulled off a couple of nice chases but have lost three of their past five games. 

Prediction

Cricket is utterly bonkers. More of a statement, but there you go. 

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