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Bennett, Nofal shine as Wellington clinch Ford Trophy title

Hamish Bennett's early wickets cramped Otago Getty Images

Wellington 235 for 7 (Nofal 73, Younghusband 49, Duffy 3-50) beat Otago 234 for 8 (Viljoen 87, Rippon 82, Bennett 4-46) by three wickets

Wellington overcame a middle-order collapse, and a late threat from Otago seamers, to scramble to a three-wicket win with eight balls to spare in the final of the Ford Trophy in Dunedin.

Wellington lost four wickets for 31 runs in the middle of their chase of 235, following which Malcolm Nofal and Peter Younghusband put on a 118-run stand to take Wellington closer to the finish. But their wickets within a space of 4.1 overs put them on the back seat again, and with 23 required off 22 balls from then, Lauchie Johns and Ollie Newton saw through the rest of the chase in the next 15 balls.

Opting to bat, Otago lost their openers to medium-pacer Newton within the first seven overs. But it was captain Hamish Bennett (4 for 46) who caused the major damage in the ninth over, as he put himself on a hat-trick after dismissing Nathan Smith and Shawn Hicks off consecutive balls. Although Anaru Kitchen denied him the chance to become the first bowler in the team's List A history to bag a hat-trick, Bennett bowled him off the very next ball, leaving Otago reeling at 39 for 5 by the 10th over.

Michael Rippon then took charge and eased the nerves for Otago with a 112-ball 82. Christi Viljoen then joined him for an eighth-wicket stand of 146 before Bennett came back in the 48th over to dismiss Rippon. Viljoen and Jacob Duffy provided the final flourish with 29 runs in the last two overs, as the former finished on the highest score by a No. 9 batsman in Ford Trophy history.

In reply, Wellington were put under pressure early in the chase, as they lost the big wickets of Andrew Fletcher and Michael Pollard inside the first 10 overs, following which Rippon and Duffy razed through the middle order. Despite losing Nofal on 73, and with Smith and Duffly stifling the scoring from both ends, the Wellington tail fought hard to take their team to their eighth Ford Trophy title.