Central Districts and Otago pull off thrilling wins
Otago and Central Districts kept up the push for a spot in the finals by squeezing out tight wins in the seventh round. Both sides are now tied on 26 points, ten behind leaders Northern Districts and six ahead of fourth-placed Canterbury.
Central Districts' wicketkeeper Bevan Griggs starred in their cliffhanger against Canterbury, slamming an unbeaten 51-ball 53 to power them to a one-wicket victory in New Plymouth with just two balls to spare. Adam Milne, the 17-year-old medium-pacer, had a debut to remember, holding his nerve to hit the winnings runs. The match looked to be heading for a draw after Mathew Sinclair fell for 76, leaving CD the big ask of 139 runs off the final 22 overs with six wickets in hand, but Griggs' enterprising innings steered them to an improbable win.
It had already been a topsy-turvy match, with Canterbury fighting back strongly from a first-innings deficit of 191 runs. They seemed to be hurtling to defeat when they slid to 94 for 4 in the second innings but a double-century from Shanan Stewart and 178 for Kruger van Wyk - the pair were involved in an unbroken 379-run sixth-wicket stand- propelled Canterbury to 551 for 5 dec, which ultimately didn't prove enough to prevent defeat.
Left-arm-spinner Nick Beard was Otago's hero in their 24-run victory over Auckland at the University Oval, picking a career-best 6 for 107 to spark a late collapse - Auckland losing their final five wickets for 39 runs to stumble to defeat from a winning position. A 149-run opening stand between Jeet Raval and Tim McIntosh and a string of 30 from the middle-order took them to 294 for 5, only 66 away from victory, before Beard removed both set batsmen - Aaron Kitchen and Colin de Grandhomme - to snatch an unexpected win with five overs remaining.
Otago had been in control for much of the match, after captain Craig Cummings' 102 and an 86 from Sam Wells guided them to 387 in the first innings. McIntosh was among the runs in the first-innings as well, making 81, with Reece Young cracking an 80 before Auckland declared towards the end of the third day, despite being 149 behind. Otago motored along at nearly six an over in the second innings, Greg Todd's 47-ball 66 being the highlight, before they declared on 208 to set Auckland a target of 358.