Little-known TC Bruce, playing his first competitive game at domestic level, slammed 88 off 65 balls to propel Central Districts to a 49-run victory against Otago in New Plymouth, and set up a finals clash against Auckland on February 1.
Not much about Bruce is common knowledge at present - not his age, not his place of birth, not his previous cricket pedigree, and not his playing style - but he came out at No. 5 for Central Districts and hit half a dozen sixes and five fours to lift his team to 252 before they were dismissed in 48.1 overs.
Central Districts had started poorly after choosing to bat, losing their top three batsmen for 38 runs by the 12th over. They were steadied by a 63-run stand between Dane Cleaver and Kruger van Wyk but both batsmen fell in quick succession and Central Districts were 107 for 5 in the 25th. That was when Bruce began his counterattack along with Doug Bracewell, who scored 45 off 53 balls. They added 102 runs for the sixth wicket. The Central Districts lower order fell away, though, and they lost their last four wickets in the space of nine runs. Jacob Duffy took 3 for 44 for Otago, while Neil Wagner and Sam Wells claimed two wickets each.
Otago's chase of 253 started poorly, with the openers falling cheaply to Doug Bracewell. Bevan Small then dismissed Michael Bracewell for a golden duck to reduce Otago to 16 for 3. There was an 89-run stand between Jesse Ryder and Aaron Redmond, but Otago lost both of them in the space of two runs and then slumped to 113 for 6. They were eventually dismissed for 203 in 41.5 overs. George Worker and Andrew Mathieson took three wickets each for Central Dictricts.