The Otago Volts are semifinal-bound in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in India as the dollar signs start to sparkle in front of the Otago Cricket Association as it chips away for a piece of the $7.4 million prizemoney on offer.
The Volts will play the Rajasthan Royals in their final Group A game in Jaipur tomorrow morning but even a loss is unlikely to knock them out of the semifinal spot, given their superior run rate over the other contenders the Mumbai Indians.
The Volts' dramatic super over the Highveld Lions extended the Volts' remarkable winning streak to 15 in a row.
Coach Vaughn Johnson admitted the likely spot in the semifinals was a huge accomplishment for his side.
"When we come into this tournament our first challenge was to qualify, we did that 3-zip. Then it was to win a game in the main event and we've won two now," Johnson said.
"I don't really care where they send us for the [semifinals] we're just happy to continue the winning run we've had. We've got to wait until tomorrow to find out iof we are in the semis but if we are it's huge for Otago, it's huge for this team."
While Johnson was delighted Neesham played a match-winning knock of 52 from 25 balls to get his team home in dramatic circumstances, he said the reality was the performance overall was reasonably poor.
"I wasn't particularly happy with the way we played tonight; I thought we were a little bit loose in the field, we were a little bit too lengths [in the bowling] but the way Neesham played with the bat we always had the belief because of the fine player he is. This kid will play a lot of international cricket."
One player in particular who would have been pleased Neesham rescued his team is Nick Beard.
Beard, in just three overs, experienced just how much of a thrill cricket can be before finding out how cruel it can also be.
In Beard's first over sending down his left-arm spinners he grabbed two wickets in two balls.
He had Temba Bavuma stumped before trapping South African test player Alviro Petersen in front first ball.
However, in the next over, Quinton de Kock top-edged a sweep shot from the bowling of spinner Nathan McCullum but Beard overran what should have been a regulation catch.
At the time, de Kock was on 48 and went on to make 109 not out, which included taking Beard for 21 off his next over.
A likely Lions score of 140-odd ballooned out to 167, which looked to be too much until Neesham got in on the act with the bat in the Volts' reply.
A spot in the semifinals will see the Volts pick up NZ$600,000, which would be on top of the $600,000 participation fee they received.
- The Southland Times