Auckland one win away from T20 play-offs
Tom Latham heaped credit on Auckland but the Canterbury captain couldn't help but lament costly errors in the field and with the ball as their domestic Twenty20 cricket hopes went up in flames at Rangiora's Mainpower Oval yesterday.
The visitors snatched a four-wicket win with three balls to spare, which keeps them alive and consigns Canterbury's previously faint hopes to the rubbish bin.
While Auckland are one healthy win away from a playoffs spot - they need to beat stragglers Central Districts in their final match at Eden Park tomorrow, and boost their run-rate enough to overtake Northern Districts into the third and final spot - Canterbury's final match against Otago in Dunedin tomorrow is now a dead rubber.
For most of yesterday's match it didn't look as if it would be - the hosts were in control but couldn't finish the job.
Auckland always looked off the pace in their chase for 183. They needed 100 off the final nine overs but a brilliant partnership of 73 from 41 balls for the fifth wicket between Colin de Grandhomme (36 from 23) and Craig Cachopa (37 from 25) dragged them back into the match.
Still, when Cachopa was run out by a direct hit from George Worker at cover, and then de Grandhomme holed out to Andrew Ellis, Auckland needed 24 off 10 with two new batsmen at the crease.
Enter the little known Donovan Grobbelaar, who hit the next three balls from Ellis for six, four and six to slash the equation to eight from seven balls.
He then finished the game off with a boundary in the final over, ending unbeaten on 24 from just seven balls.
"I backed our bowlers to defend 180 but unfortunately we couldn't quite execute as well as we did on Friday night and we paid the price," Latham said.
"In Twenty20, you're never safe and a couple of overs changed the game."
De Grandhomme and Cachopa deserve credit for the way they manipulated the ball around the large ground and picked up twos and threes.
Yet Canterbury often allowed them to, with several misfields. There were also costly errors with the ball, such as a five-run wide from an Ellis bouncer and a legside wide from Henry, which also found the boundary.
"Our fielding wasn't up to the standard it should have been," Latham said. "In Twenty20 cricket every run counts and it was probably the difference in the end. We're really disappointed but all credit has to go to Auckland."
The loss ends a disappointing campaign for Canterbury which started with three successive losses but showed signs of life with a mid-competition revival.
"We've been a little bit unlucky in a couple of games, we could easily have another eight points, but when you're winning in Twenty20 it becomes a habit and we haven't been on the ball all the time," Latham said.
Worker's unbeaten 89 shone like a beacon in Canterbury's innings as the left-handed opener paced his knock nicely, and brushing off some dire Plunket Shield form which has seen him score just 139 runs at 13.9
Dropped twice before he reached 10, Worker played an aggressive lead role during the first half while others struggled around him before handing over to Ellis when the Black Caps limited overs international, batting at No 4, found his mojo mid-innings.
The pair put on 78 from 50 balls, Ellis plundering four sixes in a 28-ball 40. .
Some good blows at the death from Gareth Andrew, who scored 14 from four balls, propelled the Wizards to a respectable 182-4.
Left-armer Ryan McCone was easily the pick of the home bowlers, with 2-22 from four overs. But he bowled out early and nobody picked up the slack.
- © Fairfax NZ News