Northern Spirit defeated Central Hinds by 53 runs (DLS)
Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui 7 December 2019
It was a top of the table clash between the Hinds and Spirit on a muggy afternoon at the Mount, but despite a crunch win by hosts the Spirit, it would be the Auckland Hearts who snatched the competition lead in this round after a brutal bonus point win further north in Auckland.
The Auckland-Sparks match was already all over by the time Northern Spirit walked off the field for lunch, having set the Hinds a 300-chase with a solid 299 for five in response to having been sent in.
The outfield was hard and fast, but it was the Spirit's ease with which they split the field and found the rope that saw runs pile up quickly for the hosts, while the errors mounted for the Hinds as they chased leather in the warm conditions.
Bernadine Bezuidenhout led the way with a commanding career-best knock, energetic and picking the boundaries as she made a fast start in combination with Katie Gurrey.
On the cusp of her half century, the way Bezuidenhout was batting, losing form batsman Gurrey (39 off 53) in the 17th as Claudia Green broke through for a much-needed wicket at 91/1 didn't seem like that much of a setback for Northern as the 26-year-old international maintained her run-a-ball clip in combination with captain Felicity Leydon-Davis.
The new pair put on 94 together, 184 for one at the 30-over mark and sailing past until Leydon-Davis fell just short of a half-century as hard-working Melissa Hansen picked up the first of her wickets.
Fluid Bezuidenhout was still marching on, having eased into the 80s, her best performance to date for the Spirit in the one-day format.
The 26-year-old former South African and WHITE FERNS rep had scored a career-best 128 for Western Province in 2013/14 back in her South Africa days, and had cracked fifty twice for Spirit, including 52 against the Magicians earlier this season, as well as a 46.
With Kate Anderson she put the Spirit 200 on the board off 226 balls, as Rosemary Mair and Hansen tried to stem the damage for the Hinds.
A single ushered Bezuidenhout to 96* and, after nine boundaries and nearly two and a half hours, she was in touching distance of her first century for Spirit - before mistiming a drive Hansen straight into the hands of Mikaela Greig.
It was a sober end to a superb innings, but at 208 for three Spirit was far from done with the bat.
A quickfire 31 from Kate Anderson and 33 off just 24 balls from a busy Eimear Richardson maintained the momentum at the death.
Despite two late wickets for Jess Watkin, Spirit reached their second highest ever women's List A tally, bettered only by their 312/2 against the Canterbury Magicians in Hamilton last summer.
It was a mountain to climb for the Hinds and it got steeper after they lost two of their key batting stars, a positive Jess Watkin - coming off a career-best 158 - and Natalie Dodd inside the first 15 overs.
After a sudden thunderous downpour at lunch, the chase had been reduced to 283 off 45 overs but none of the Hinds was able to reach a half century in response to the Spirit's solid effort.
After hitting the only six of the innings, captain van Deventer was a big breakthrough for Charlotte Sarsfield at 83/3, before Kerry Tomlinson (39) anchored an 87-run stand for the fourth with Hannah Rowe.
With the required rate climbing, experienced WHITE FERN Rowe shaped as the Hinds' best hope of some sort of explosive fightback, but when she was caught off Caroline Esterhuizen for 45 it was all over bar the shouting for former leaders the Hinds who petered out to 229 for nine in the 45 overs.
The dramatic turnaround in form this season had continued for Spirit. Last in the previous two summers, now their roll had continued with an impressive win over the defending champions.