Bates stars as Auckland win thrilling finale
Auckland 158 for 8 (J Adams 62, Mason 3-24) beat Central Districts 154 for 9 (Taylor 44, Bates 4-18) by 4 runs
Fast bowler Michael Bates' triple-wicket maiden set up a thrilling four-run win for Auckland in the HRV Cup final against Central Districts at the Colin Maiden Park. Auckland were restricted to 158 for 8 in their 20 overs, but some tight bowling backed up by sharp fielding helped them wrest the title from the defending champions.
Hosts Auckland, who won the toss, elected to bat. But Gareth Hopkins' decision seemed to backfire after Auckland lost two wickets within the first four overs. Martin Guptill, who was in fine form in the recent Twenty20 series Pakistan, was the first to go in the second over for 4, edging Doug Bracewell to Ross Tayor in the slips. Bracewell struck again in his next over to have Lou Vincent caught at long-on.
Jimmy Adams and Colin de Grandhomme then combined for a 66-run third-wicket partnership to calm the nerves. Grandhomme got the Auckland innings moving, striking consecutive boundaries. Adams too found his touch and soon brought up the partnership's fifty with back-to-back boundaries. Grandhomme fell for 31 but Adams, who was dropped by Taylor, went on to reach his half-century before he was finally dismissed for 62 to leave Auckland at 125 for 4 with 4.1 overs still left. But Auckland failed to accelerate after that, and though Colin Munro hit 29 off 18 balls, Michael Mason struck to pick up three quick wickets, to keep Auckland down to an average total.
CD, who had chased down 181 to beat Auckland in Pukekura Park last week to qualify for the final, didn't bargain for the start they had. Peter Ingram was caught at third man off the first ball of the innings from Michael Bates. This was followed by back-to-back dismissals: Jamie How was caught in the slips of Bates' third ball and Ian Blackwell was caught by a diving Roneel Hira off the fourth ball. CD were 0 for 3.
"To be honest, that first ball was short and wide," Bates said. "The second was good but the ball that got the third wicket was a half-volley on leg stump."
Michael Yardy and Taylor buckled down to add 51 runs for the fourth wicket to restore some normalcy. When Andre Adams struck to pick up the crucial wicket of Taylor who made a fluent 44, CD needed 87 from 39. At 85 for 7, things looked bleak for CD. Bracewell and Kruger van Wyk added 50 in 4.4 overs to swing the momentum in favour of CD. Bates, however, struck again to dismiss Bracewell and was involved in running out van Wyk in the last over. CD needed 13 runs off three balls but Auckland held their nerve.
"We pride ourselves on our fielding," Hopkins said. "We've done a lot of work to set a standard and we want to be the best fielding unit in the competition.
"When you win things like this you need an extended squad. You can't overlook the efforts of those who weren't playing today. They're here today and they'll be celebrating with us."
The winners of the HRV Cup have qualified for the previous two editions of the Champions League and should the format remain the same for the next edition as well, Auckland will be the team to qualify.