The Kings seized the day. Photosport

Kings rule in Hagley Oval elimination

There could be only one.

 

At Hagley Oval on Super Smash Sunday, the Canterbury Kings and Devon Hotel Central Stags went head to head for the last available spot in the Georgie Pie Super Smash 2015 Finals.

 

Two popular teams, a great crowd, star pros on both sides and coming off a good run in the business end of the compeitition: someone was always going to go home gutted.

 

Scorecard

 

It would be the Stags who couldn't quite get the better of the Kings' attack — comprising a mix of wily veterans and a beefed-up Logan van Beek's verve — in the chase, going down by 17 painful runs at Hagley Oval.

 

That booked the Kings a ticket to Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, for the Finals series, which starts on Friday night with the first match between the SBS Bank Otago Volts and Mondiale Auckland Aces.

 

The Stags' star import Mahela Jayawardene rolled out his third half century in his four appearances for the side this season, posting it off 39 balls to bring up the Stags' 100 in the 15th over.

By then they were chasing a double figure run rate, 13-plus.

Captain George Worker, who was looking to rein in a run rate already at eight-plus, had got the innings off to a flier with two boundaries as he peeled 10 off Matt Henry's opening over, but there wasn't enough from his successors as the Kings kept climbing on top and the Stags kept losing wickets against an escalating run rate.

Worker was caught off van Beek's pace in the fifth over and the Stags' nerves weren't helped when Will Young was then undone cheaply thanks to a stunning tag-team catch from van Beek and Henry on the boundary.

 

They had been chasing the Kings' 166/6, against a side that debuted two stellar Australian imports in the match in the form of Michael "Mr Cricket" Hussey and Shane Watson, who were fresh from playing against the Kings in their festival match with Sydney Thunder.

 

The extra match, which the Kings also won, evidently proved useful for the hosts as they kept themselves on a roll.

 

Spinners Todd Astle and skipper Ronnie Hira were the key to helping the Kings contain the Stags through the middle, each turning in good economy from their four overs and picking up wickets along the way.

 

Young seamer van Beek meanwhile charged in for 3-21, including the prize wicket of Jayawardene who had held the fort for much of the showdown. The Stags were still mathematically in it until the last, having needed 28 from the last over after some desperate late booming from Kain.

Adam Milne on the receiving end

 

Seth Rance had earlier put some more polish on his good season by taking out Watson for a five-ball duck in the opening over of the day after the Australian holed out at deep square leg.

 

The solid Stags seamer went on to pick up 3-17 off his four.

 

But the brazen Peter Fulton helped smash 13 off Bevan Small in the seventh over with a six, easing the tension as Marty Kain kept things gridlock-tight at the other end. He and Hussey then consolidated to have the Kings well set at 76/1 at the halfway point.

 

The 40-year-old Hussey emulated Jayawardene's style by pacing his innings, then backing himself to go big and unleashing a six straight down the ground off spinner Kain.

 

He smashed Mitchell Claydon next over and from that moment Stags supporters were biting their nails.

 

The pair would ultimately add 81 for the second wicket. Fulton smashed his second six just before he was run out on 48 by a direct hit from keeper Dane Cleaver, while Hussey finally fell looking for another big one, only to be caught in the deep on 43.

 

Hira then put the icing on with an unbeaten 37 from just 20 balls, including five fours and a six.

 

The Stags had given themselves a real chance from an unlikely position in the back end of the competition, but would now have to accept fourth on the final table.

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