Blazing Peter Fulton falls short by three runs

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014
Peter Fulton
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
FIREPOWER: Wizards skipper Peter Fulton blazes a six during his whirlwind innings in the Twenty20 preliminary final against Northern Districts in Hamilton.

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The Canterbury Wizards' went down fighting, but their Twenty20 season ended last night - within sight of a major pay-day - losing to the Northern Knights by just three runs.

The Wizards, who had to win their last four completed matches to make last night's semifinal in Hamilton, struggled early in their chase of the Knight's 181-4 which was based around Kane Williamson's unbeaten 79.

After a poor start which had the Wizards reeling at 37-3, it was Canterbury skipper Peter Fulton who gave his side a chance with a career-best 88no from just 49 balls.

Fulton hit seven sixes and two fours, but was unable to score the 15 needed from the final over to earn a spot in tonight's final with Otago.

While Fulton went big, it was the unlikeliest of "batsmen", Ronnie Hira who gave the Wizards the shot in the arm they needed.

Hira had a sub-par night with the ball taking 1-40, but was promoted to No 5 and whacked a 21-ball 43 including four sixes.

That allowed Fulton to play himself in and the pair added 84 in just 33 balls before Hira walked past one and was stumped.

Two quiet overs late in the piece - the 15th and 16th - swung the game back to the Knights, but Fulton again wrestled back momentum with three more sixes.

The Wizards have opted not to pay an import this season and ironically it was ND's paid-to-play man Chris Tremain who delivered the knock-out punch going for just five from the penultimate over.

That left the Wizards 15 from the last six balls and it was a bridge too far despite Fulton hitting the second to last ball of the game for his seventh six.

Earlier Williamson not only helped his ND team, but he also sent a strong message to the Black Caps selectors not to count him out as a T20 player.

From 53 previous domestic and international T20 matches, the 23-year-old only had a highest score of 53 and a strike rate of a little over 100.

But the 91-time international proved his worth with a 55-ball unbeaten 79.

He started slowly and was happy to dink the ball around, but he scored comfortably off most balls he faced and hit seven fours and six.

He came to the crease with the Knights at 43-2 following a strange decision by captain Daniel Flynn to launch Andrew Ellis' first ball straight up.

Williamson added 41 with Brad Wilson before the latter was well run out by Brendon Diamanti.

Williamson and the experienced Scott Styris (29) added 73 for the fourth wicket and while the Wizards clearly had a plan to limit Styris' impact, Williamson continued to flourish and speed up his scoring.

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Rob Nicol was the best of the Wizards' bowlers, taking 0-26 from his four overs, though it could have been better had Tom Latham not missed an easy stumping on Styris when the former Black Cap was on 11.

ND will meet Otago tonight in the competition finale and it's an Otago side that while missing several Black Caps, still have a number of match-winners and have lost just two games in the last two seasons.

- The Press

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