Central Districts marched into the final of the HRV Cup with a demolition of table-toppers Auckland in New Plymouth, chasing down the target of 181 with eight wickets to spare. Peter Ingram (46) and Jamie How (43) blazed away to an opening stand of 74 in seven overs after which Ian Blackwell took over. Blackwell smashed six sixes and four fours in his unbeaten 68 from 33 deliveries as CD cantered to victory in the 17th over.
Auckland had got off to a poor start after opting to bat, reaching 58 for 3 in seven overs. They slipped further when Lou Vincent was bowled by Jacob Oram for 46 off 29. Rob Quiney and Colin Munro added 54 in 4.2 overs to take Auckland close to 150. Quiney hit five sixes in his 55 off 29. England left-arm spinner Michael Yardy led the CD bowlers with 2 for 18. The win took CD to second position behind Auckland, and the two will clash in the final on January 2.
Wellington had to wait till the penultimate ball of the match to win a thriller against Otago by three wickets at the Queenstown Events Centre. Chasing 148, Wellington managed to keep the required run-rate under control despite losing wickets at regular intervals. Opener Neal Parlane's 39, and middle-order contributions from captain Grant Elliott and England import Luke Wright helped their cause. But it was up to No. 7 Marc Calkin and No. 9 Brett Lee, the Australia fast bowler, to finish the game. Calkin got 18 off 13 as Wellington got the 14 runs they needed off the last 11 balls.
Otago had kept themselves in the game by chipping away at the wickets. Seamer James McMillan got two early scalps, and then Aaron Redmond sent nerves rushing through the Wellington dressing room, picking up a couple of wickets late in the innings with his legspinners. Redmond's second scalp left Wellington at 134 for 7, but Brett Lee came in and hit a six to take some of the pressure off his team.
Otago had reached their total of 146 largely due to Redmond's 50 off 37 balls at the top of the order. Captain Craig Cumming got a quick 25 in the middle-order and Iain Robertson added a valuable 20 not out in the end.
Canterbury beat Northern Districts by 60 runs at the Village Green in Christchurch thanks to a blazing half-century by Peter Fulton and an all-round performance from Johan van der Wath. Fulton stuck around as Canterbury lost a few early wickets, including opening partner Rob Nicol in the first over, and then accelerated to reach 64 off 46 balls. van der Wath made sure Canterbury reached 163, smashing four sixes in his 31 off 13 balls.
van der Wath then produced the goods with the balls, bowling a tight spell of four overs for 12 runs with three wickets to help bowl ND out for 103 in 18 overs. ND got off to a poor start to their chase as they lost both their openers, Brad Hodge and Daniel Flynn, within the first eight balls of their innings. Herschelle Gibbs followed, out for a duck to seamer Richard Sherlock, who took 3 for 28. ND were soon 37 for 5 after Kane Williamson and Brad Wilson fell without adding too many. BJ Watling tried to hold the innings together with his 20, but wickets fell consistently and ND couldn't even bat out their overs.