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Otago gave itself a slogger’s chance of pulling off an unlikely Super Smash win against Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval yesterday.
The home side had posted a challenging 184 for five. The Volts stumbled early in the chase but roared back into contention with some heavy-hitting cameos from Brad Wilson (19 off 10), Josh Finnie (16 from 8) Ben Cox (22 off 15) and Ben Raine (33 not out from 18).
The upshot was Nathan Smith needed to hit a six off the last delivery to win the match. The ball was there to hit, too, but he could not get enough power behind it. The Volts finished short on 180 for eight.
In some ways it would have been a travesty had Otago salvaged a win with one clean blow from Smith. It did not bat well early and produced a mostly poor bowling display.
The Volts had a good period with the ball midway through the innings. Christi Viljoen struck two vital blows and added value in his return to the starting side. But there were just too many half-volleys and half-trackers on offer for Auckland. The captain, Craig Cachopa, blasted five sixes and five fours in a powerful knock of 73 from 38 balls.
Viljoen, who had bowled well, got clobbered in his last over. Smith went for 17 in his second-to-last over, as well. But a lot of subtle damage was done in the opening six overs, when the score mounted a little too easily.
Otago coach Rob Walter was pleased with the fight his side showed with the bat but felt the Volts had not bowled well enough to get the victory.
"I think it was an excellent team batting display to get close," Walter said.
"But if you look at our bowling, there is no doubt we gave them 10-15 too many during the course of the game.
"Not to take anything away from Craig Cachopa — he batted beautifully — but we did not bowl well enough to him in terms of what our actual plans were.
"He probably got a few more away at the death than he should have ... and that probably reflects the final result."
The loss has significantly weakened Otago’s playoff prospects.
The teams were level on 12 points going into the match but Auckland now has sole possession of third place with 16 points. Otago is in fourth with three round-robin matches remaining.
Northern Districts is the runaway leader with 24 points from Central Districts in second with 18 points.
Wellington is struggling on 10 points, while Canterbury is on four points and anchored at the bottom of the standings.
"We always knew it was a big game because we were on the same points. But we were always facing having to win three of our last four so I don’t think that changes."
On Saturday, Central Districts thrashed 225 for three and held on to beat Canterbury by 18 runs in Napier.
Will Young was the star for the home team with 89 from 50 and Tom Bruce clouted 71 from 30 balls. But Tom Latham kept Canterbury in the game with 110 from 60 — his maiden T20 hundred.
• Wellington Blaze has gone back-to-back in the women’s Super Smash T20,
beating the Canterbury Magicians in a thrilling finish in Auckland yesterday.
The outcome hinged on Jess Kerr scoring the winning single off the last ball.
Canterbury, spearheaded by Erin Bermingham’s unbeaten 61,
made 130 for three in its 20 overs. Wellington was six down when it reached 131.