The Central Stags are off to their second Burger King Super Smash Grand Final in as many years after cleaning up the Elimination Final at a blustery Eden Park Outer Oval.
The visitors made it four on the bounce with their 36-run victory against the Aces as the dodgy weather played ball and a solid crowd was treated to a full match — albeit one tinged with disappointment for the Aces and their loyal supporters.
Aces captain Craig Cachopa won the toss and elected to bowl first, the home side putting in a solid effort with the ball to restrict the power-packed Stags to 163 for six from their 20 overs.
Donovan Grobbelaar and Sam Curran accounted for the two dangerous Central openers early doors, thrilled to have the Stags 14 for two with Jesse Ryder and George Worker back in the hutch.
However, the middle order stepped up for the visitors with a couple of cameos, held together by a T20 career best 54 from Dane Cleaver at number five and well supported by newly recalled BLACKCAP Ben Wheeler.
After a stream of big hits into the swirling wind resulted in catches, Cleaver and Wheeler took a different tack and accumulated through the back half of the innings, running the ones and twos and almost eschewing the boundary until the death.
They headed into the final over sitting on a 47-run stand for the sixth wicket off just 21 balls, Cleaver unbeaten on 47 and reaching his half ton in the final over before he was run out in the traditional last over scramble for every run poss.
But it was job done with the bat, 163 enough for the Stags attack to bowl at in the conditions.
Sean Solia took 2-16 from his two overs for the Aces as the Stags posted a middling total of 163 for six.
With the spits of drizzly rain closing in on the Outer Oval yet never quite turning to rain, the Aces were caught between sticking with chasing the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern ask or timing their chase for the full 20 overs.
With big early wickets falling, the home side found themselves chasing the game but with skipper Cachopa (38) still hanging in there at the crease, there was always some hope.
Cachopa started clearing the rope, but he just couldn’t keep the momentum humming for his side as wickets started to fall regularly around him.
Top wicket-taker Blair Tickner came into the attack and made a big impact as usual, claiming the big scalps of Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman, both cheaply, to sit on figures of 2-02.
Ronnie Hira (22) tried in vain to get the Aces close, but eventually Central’s bowlers were too strong, BLACKCAP Seth Rance (3-22) and spinner Ajaz Patel (pocketing a T20 career best 3-26) both in the wickies as well as the Aces were bowled out for 127 in the 18th over.
Central Stags now head to the Burger King Super Smash Grand Final against the Knights in Hamilton on Saturday (reserve day Sunday) while the Aces will now turn their focus to the resumption of the Ford Trophy one day campaign.
The winner of Burger King Super Smash takes home the richest pay packet in New Zealand domestic cricket, $80,000; while the loser will be consoled by $20,000.
Tickets are available online at www.supersmash.co.nz