OTAGO SPARKS lost to AUCKLAND HEARTS by 8 wickets
University of Otago Oval
9 December 2018
After a ground delay took out the first two scheduled hours, Auckland Hearts captain Maddy Green was pleased to win the toss and bowl as the Aucklanders looked to remain unbeaten in their Hallyburton Johnstone Shield defence.
With the Hinds marginally ahead of them on net run rate, the defending champions were level on points at the top of the table as teams headed into the back half of a 10-round competition looking very much like a two-horse race between the two leaders.
The match reduced to 45 overs per side, Polly Inglis made an assertive start against WHITE FERNS seamer Holly Huddleston, but Arlene Kelly quickly grabbed back the early advantage in a superb and economical opening spell by dismissing Inglis and Katey Martin off consecutive overs, the Sparks 25/3 in the 10th.
Already they had lost Olivia Gain to a runout, leaving Leigh Kasperek and English import Alice Davidson-Richards with a big repair job to get their side back in the contest.
But the arrival of first change Bella Armstrong in the 13th over spelt more trouble for the hosts, Armstrong striking with her third delivery to send Davidson-Richardson back to the Otago Daily Times Stand for no score at 31 for four.
Roz McNeill then struck with her fifth delivery to remove Millie Cowan as the bowlers continued their field day at 36 for five inside the first 15.
Now Kasperek looked to Megan Gibbs for support, but the wickets kept tumping and by the time Armstrong struck again, the Sparks were 99/8 in the 36th. Kasperek was already gone, having top-scored with 34 before being caught off Anna Peterson.
Even in a reduced match their ultimate tally of 107 wasn’t enough to threaten the Hearts in their bullish form, the Aucklanders chasing down the runs with ease, and almost 30 overs to spare, despite the loss of both openers.
Captain Maddie Green ran off unbeaten on 52* with steady support having come from Katie Perkins as they stretched their unbeaten record into the back half of the competition.
Their attention turned now whether leaders the Central Hinds could emulate them in a tough battle ongoing at Hagley Oval.