Replay of 1999 final as Otago beaten twice in Super Max semis
In what has become something of a Super Max tradition, only one ball remained in today's last semi-final to decide who would play in tomorrow's 2000 final at Eden Park's Outer Oval.
Because Auckland got up to score the 124 runs needed for victory, it was decided that the preliminary semi-final between Auckland and Wellington scheduled for tomorrow morning will not now be played, leaving the way open for the same two teams to contest the final.
Otago was keen to make the final after being forced to play two games today and came within an ace of doing so.
After being well beaten in its first game by the defending champion Wellington, Otago came out after lunch with all guns blazing. Andrew Hore, who had another fine day of big hitting, hit 45 from 20 balls in the first innings and set Otago on its way to 116-3.
Auckland was tied down by some fine Otago bowling and could post only 95-4. But then in a reversal of batting form Otago slumped badly to be 21-4 in its fourth over of the second innings. That proved crucial in the final outcome as its hardest hitters were all back in the pavilion.
Craig Pryor and Mark Billcliff added 73 runs but were parted in the ninth over at just the stage Otago could not afford to lose momentum. Only eight more runs were scored and while it set a stiff target for Auckland, it needed a repeat of its first innings bowling effort.
That wasn't forthcoming however. Auckland seemed determined to knock Otago's bowlers off line, and it succeeded.
Aaron Barnes and Llorne Howell launched a blistering assault and with 51 on board in four overs, Otago was staring down the barrel. Howell played a vital role by remaining until the 10th over by which time Auckland had enough batting left to ensure it would take the win.
It was injured Black Caps medium pace bowler Dion Nash who took some satisfaction from a disappointing summer by hitting the second ball he faced to the boundary for four. It was a controversial end, as Billcliff was ruled to have bowled a wide from the previous delivery, a ball that looked a more than reasonable delivery.
Auckland got home with a ball to spare however and will now play out a repeat of last summer's final.