The new year ushered in New Zealand Cricket's new domestic Twenty20 competition, the HRV Cup, and in the opening game at Mount Maunganui , Northern Districts snuck a five-run win over Auckland. In front of a crowd of 5100, ND successfully defended a total of 164 by taking wickets at the right time while never allowing threatening partnerships to form.
Opening the innings, BJ Watling hit 73 off 59 balls and with Daniel Vettori added 61 in 6.3 overs. Vettori, promoted to opener, made 43 from 22 balls with seven fours and a six. Daniel Flynn (18) threatened to do damage but his dismissal in the 14th over was followed by a period in which Auckland took three more wickets for 18 runs in 17 deliveries.
However, Watling managed to keep up one end even as his scoring rate dipped somewhat. He found assistance from Joseph Yovich (17) and the pair added 26 before being dismissed off the last two deliveries of ND's innings. Watling's 73 easily surpassed his previous best of 48.
In reply to that target, Auckland lost Lou Vincent to the impressive Brent Arnel in the third over. That dismissal set in motion a pattern of the batsmen getting a footing but slipping before managing to impose themselves. Martin Guptill smacked 37 from 22 balls before he was run out by Vettori, who opened the bowling, and Tim Southee. Two deliveries later, with the score still 53, Auckland lost Ravi Bopara cheaply, bowled by Vettori. Scott Styris made 22 from 20 balls - a slow rate of scoring given the target - before Arnel returned and got rid of him with a slower ball that was chipped to mid-off.
Gareth Hopkins, the wicketkeeping-captain, launched into the attack for a 33-ball 50 yet didn't find sufficient support down the order. Bruce Martin, bowling his slow left-arm spin, accounted for Reece Young and Colin de Grandhomme in the 17th over, and from there Auckland fell five runs behind their target. Hopkins was dismissed by Arnel off the last ball of the 19th over, and from there Auckland needed 12 from the last over but Southee bowled a tidy six deliveries to deny them.
A full round of matches will be played on Sunday and Monday, with Sunday's action including the ND taking on 2009 champions Otago, at Blake Park, Central Districts playing Wellington in New Plymouth, and Auckland hosting Canterbury at Colin Maiden Park.