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Canterbury storm into preliminary finals; Otago top table

File photo - Mahela Jayawardene struck his third fifty in four games but couldn't prevent Central Districts from crashing out of the competition Getty Images

Canterbury stormed into the preliminary finals with a 17-run win over Central Districts in Christchurch. In a straight shootout for one of two remaining spots in the playoffs, Canterbury, who acquired the services of Shane Watson and Mike Hussey for this game, posted 166 for 6 after choosing to bat.

Canterbury lost Watson for a duck in the first over, but Hussey (43 off 36) and Peter Fulton (48 off 33) swung the momentum in Canterbury's favour with an 81-run stand off 57 balls. Ronnie Hira, the captain, provided the impetus to the end of the innings with a brisk 37, an innings that featured five fours and a six. However, the Central Districts bowlers pulled it back to an extent, conceding 32 off the last four overs. Seth Rance, the pacer, was the pick of the bowlers, with figures of 3 for 17.

Openers George Worker and Mahela Jayawardene got CD off to a solid start, adding 37 in 30 balls. However, they lost wickets in regular intervals thereafter as the required run-rate kept increasing steadily. Legspinner Todd Astle picked up his second wicket off the last ball of the 14th over with CD still requiring 77 with six wickets in hand. Jayawardene got to his third fifty in four innings, but was dismissed soon after for 53 as Canterbury comfortably defended the target. Logan van Beek claimed three wickets.

Otago did not leave their fate on other results as they topped the points table with a dominant display, a 56-run win, against Northern Districts in Mount Maunganui.

Otago's openers - Hamish Rutherford (17) and Anaru Kitchen (37) - put on 58 in 40 balls to set the tone for the innings. Michael Bracewell and Jimmy Neesham added 92 in just 43 balls as Otago raced to 178 for 4. Bracewell was given out obstructing the field off the final ball of the innings for a 39-ball 54, while Neesham remained unbeaten on 49 off 26 balls.

Northern Districts not only had to win, but had to do so in quick time to boost their net run-rate. But the pressure of a stiff target proved to be a task too far. Wickets tumbled frequently as ND struggled to get close to the target. Nick Kelly top-scored with 42 but it was nowhere near enough as ND were bundled out for 122 in 16.2 overs. Kitchen took three wickets while Sam Wells and Nathan McCullum took two apiece.

Right-arm pacer Dane Hutchinson and left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock shared six wickets between them dismiss to Auckland for 109, setting up Wellington's seven-wicket win in Auckland. Michael Papps and Tom Blundell then added a 43-run opening partnership as Wellington aced the chase in 15.1 overs.

Having opted to bat, Auckland were reduced to 27 for 3 inside five overs with Hutchinson doing most of the damage. Colin Munro (28) tried to repair the innings but lacked substantial support from the other end. Woodcock was then assisted by offspinner Alecz Day to rip through the middle order.

Auckland were in danger of getting bowled out for a double-digit score at 89 for 9, but No.9 Tarun Nethula (27) spared his side that ignominy. Although Papps and Murdoch fell in successive overs in the chase, Blundell remained unbeaten on 45 off 41 balls, including four fours and a six, to take Wellington to a consolation win.

Auckland will now play Central Districts in the first preliminary final on December 11, the loser of which will compete against Canterbury for the second spot in the finals.