It was a pity one side had to lose. A ruthless, 44-ball 70 from Sophie Devine and slick finishing touches from Fran Wilson helped Wellington Blaze hunt down the Hearts’ impressive 150 for six at a humid and warm Eden Park Outer Oval as the pressure bore down in the 2016/17 national women's Twenty20 Competition.
Blaze had no choice but to win to stay alive, however, in the short, sharp five-round comp, after a tumult of close finishes they now find themselves tearing up from dead last on the table to the exciting position of having a chance of squeezing through into the Grand Final, should other last-round results go their way.
It was a riveting watch as the Hearts and Blaze took first use of the ground in a McDonald’s Super Smash double header with the Aces and Stags, Blaze captain Liz Perry perhaps finding cause to regret sending the slick Hearts in after they got away to their solid tally.
Katie Perkins continued her golden run with the bat, topping off the Hearts’ innings with a quick unbeaten 23-ball 37, including a six, as she and Holly Huddleston finished confidently at the death.
It had not gone so well for Blaze’s Suzie McDonald, who would have to leave the field late in the piece after attempting a catch in the deep, and although Eimear Richardson chipped out Down and Green, no bowler got off lightly as the Hearts fired up with the bat.
Anna Peterson had slammed five boundaries for a run-a-ball 45 at the top, a new T20 career best as she built a 22-run start with Lauren Down before Maddy Green joined her for a 62-run platform for the second wicket.
Relentless Devine moved up to open for the Blaze in reply and made the most of it, slamming six boundaries and three sixes to keep the momentum chugging, even as Holly Huddleston put herself on an early hat-trick with the wickets of Richardson and Perry in an all-action fifth over.
Huddleston would collect a T20 career best 3-13, but it was the win they were after.
“We thought their 150 was above par and when we had turned up this morning it was bucketing down, so it was surprising we even played,” said Devine afterwards.
“That was part of the reason we bowled first — we thought there might be a bid of juice in it, and there was overhead cloud. But it was a good deck, good carry and bounce, so it was a great chase from us, Fran Wilson again in the runs against a quality side in all departments.”
Wilson had come in after the Huddleston double and underpinned the remainder of the chase after Devine’s exit in the 14th over, her unbeaten 60 coming from just 45 balls as the Blaze closed in on a last-over win.
Bella Armstrong made her T20 debut for the Hearts in the match, the Aucklanders holding second spot on the table behind the tearaway Canterbury Magicians.