For the first time in New Zealand domestic history, the Auckland Hearts have defended the Women’s One-Day crown, taking out the 2016 title with an impressive eight-wicket win over the stellar — and now shellshocked — Wellington Blaze at Auckland’s Melville Park today.
About the only thing that went right for the visitors from the capital, in front of a boisterous home crowd, was captain Sophie Devine winning the toss on a fine, warm Auckland day.
The Hearts’ Holly Huddleston (3-30) produced a giant-killing opening spell to have Blaze stars Eimear Richardson, Devine herself and Liz Perry all back in the pavilion quickly, the Blaze reeling as they went from 26 for one to 27 for three in the blink of an eye.
It was a nightmare from which they struggled to recover, however WHITE FERNS opener Rachel Priest showed her class by remaining unfazed — carrying on for her fourth One-Day century for the Blaze, 107 off 117 deliveries.
It could not have been conjured at a more vital time, no fewer than five ducks crippling the Blaze innings.
She finally found support from Gemma Krebs at eight, who battled 56 deliveries for her 13 runs; and later an equally determined Allex Evans before Priest was bowled in the 44th over by Roz McNeill.
Despite an important contribution, Priest was angry with herself for not seeing it through, and sure enough the Blaze was soon dismissed in 45.2 overs.
• Rachel Priest reached 4500 List A runs when she passed 45
• Record 7th wicket partnership for Wellington v Auckland (48 by Priest/Krebs — previously 46 by SFM Devine/AC Kerr at Wellington, 2015/16)
• 8th List A century for Rachel Priest (her fourth for Wellington)
• Best one-day bowling for Roz McNeill (previously 3-14)
• Record 1st wicket partnership for Auckland v Wellington — previously 88 by MK Fruin/MK Tyler in Auckland in 1998/99, and again by the same pair in Wellington in 1999/2000
The Blaze had set the Hearts a chase of just 146 for the silverware, and the composure of Hearts openers Lauren Down (63) and Sam Curtis (and unbeaten 65) ensured that the trophy would stay in the cabinet.
By the time schoolgirl legspinner Amelia Kerr broke their 134-run opening stand, just a dozen runs remained for victory, and even a late flutter of wickets could not stop the Hearts from grabbing the trophy with both hands.
With the One-Day title decided for the season, attention now turns to Rangiora where the Canterbury Magicians will take on the Central Hinds for the national Twenty20 crown tomorrow.