Auckland gives a lesson to ponder over the winter
North Harbour Stadium's outer oval was the scene for the first of our final round matches against the State Auckland Hearts.
Winning the toss and batting on a good pitch, Auckland demonstrated how to go about setting a total that threatens to play the opposition out of the game before they've even picked up their bats.
Each partnership in their 269, with the exception of the first wicket perhaps, was well constructed from excellent basic cricket. Michelle Lynch started things off and when she was joined at the crease by Emily Drumm, the momentum really picked up.
Drumm's undefeated century innings was the best I have seen first hand and it epitomised all the little things that set good batsman apart from the rest. The most impressive aspect was the way she toyed with our field.
Her placement was superb. Exercising control of direction and power, she was able to squeeze runs not only from the inner circle, but also from the boundary sweepers. Kathryn Ramel and Helen Watson sustained the pressure with astute running between the wickets when they joined her at the crease.
We were never in the hunt after losing early wickets in our chase. The pleasing thing for us was that we didn't capitulate and we produced some of our better partnerships of the season, finishing on 154. However, you can never read too much into an innings played out when the result is beyond doubt.
The second match saw us among the very pleasant surroundings of Devonport Domain. Auckland again won the toss and this time elected to bowl. Our side had two enforced changes with Janice Fraser returning home ill and a back injury ruling out wicket-keeper Katherine Spence. Haylee Partridge returned to the side and Becky Roderick took the 12th man duties.
Our opening partnership has been a problem this season, taking far too many balls to score too few runs. When it reached 20 things were looking up, then a silly call for a second run on the arm of Drumm resulted in a run all the way back to the pavilion for the guilty party.
At 55/2 after 20 overs we weren't looking too bad. It was one of our better starts against Auckland we thought that as long as we could get a minimum of a further 100 runs off the next 30 overs, we could be competitive.
However, the next 15 overs were disgraceful and the Test match-like scoring rate must have tested the patience of the small crowd in attendance. At 77/7 we really were wondering what went wrong. We struggled through to 107 all out in the final over.
Auckland made an absolute (and justified) mockery of the chase, finishing it in 15 overs without a wicket down. Rebecca Rolls, after surviving a dropped sitter on the second ball of the game, and an edge put down an over later, both off the bowling of Louise Milliken, spanked 58 off 46 balls. Lynch also found the fence frequently and it really wasn't a contest.
Auckland now head to the final against Canterbury, who should be relieved they haven't suffered too much from losing points to other sides on the merit of their local weather. Previous finals between the two sides have produced good contests and this year will be no exception.
While the top of the table fight for final honours, those of us further down will be reflecting on what has been a unique season and one that has left us with plenty to think about.