The two teams that will contest this season's Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Grand Final have been found. Now the only question to be answered — tomorrow (Sunday) — is where next week's national one-day Final will be played.
A dominant, nine-wicket win over the Otago Sparks in Palmerston North gave the Central Hinds a bonus-point victory this afternoon, which — when the Hearts subsequently eliminated Wellington Blaze from the reckoning with a last-over 13-run victory in Auckland, later in the afternoon — was enough for the Hinds to lock in the last qualifying berth, with tomorrow's round to spare.
Had the Blaze got up over the Hearts, the two finalists would be heading into tomorrow's Round 10 with just one point separating them in the race to qualify top and host the Grand Final. However, the Hearts' victory at Colin Maiden Park, with five balls to spare, means they will take a five-point lead into tomorrow's last round of the regular season.
That means that if the Hinds are to get up and host the Final, they will now need another bonus-point win over the Sparks; a loss for the Hearts against the Blaze tomorrow; and, an improvement in their own net run rate in the process — making the Hearts odds-on favourites for the Grand FInal hosting rights.
The Hearts' team effort of 211 for nine batting first set up their win under pressure. Half centuries from visiting captain Liz Perry and fellow former WHITE FERN Thamsyn Newton (53) gave the Blaze excellent chance of chasing that tally down, however, the loss of Perry — stumped on 55 in the 39th over — triggered a cataclysm of seven wickets in the last 11 overs that saw the Wellingtonians dive from 149 for three to 198 all out.
Holly Huddleston (3-32) and Bella Armstrong (2-41) profited in the wicket column, with two runouts also aiding the Hearts in their cause.
- It was the 200th match for the Auckland Hearts in the national one-day competition
- Hallyburton Johnstone Shield debut for Amie Hucker (Auckland Hearts)
- Auckland Hearts captaincy debut: Regina Lili'i
- Record 9th wicket partnership for Auckland Hearts v Wellington Blaze (30 — previously 27* by MP Murphy/PA Gruber at Upper Hutt, 2007/08)
- Caitlin King was Arlene Kelly's 50th List A wicket