The SBS Bank Otago Volts clinched top spot for the Georgie Pie Super Smash finals after a comprehensive 56-run win over the SKYCITY Northern Knights at a warm and cloudy Bay Oval.
The Volts were all but secure of a playoff spot going into the clash, but their win, coupled with the Mondiale Auckland Aces’ loss to the Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds on the same afternoon, saw them jump into first on the ladder.
They went about obtaining Finals privileges impressively against a Knights side which needed to win and also boost their net run rate to make the Finals weekend.
The Volts' opening pair of Anaru Kitchen and Hamish Rutherford started strongly, with Kitchen especially taking to Scott Kuggeleijn, who went for 34 from his first two overs as the visitors brought up 50 within the first six overs.
Kitchen made an important 37 from 27 balls, but when he fell, Rutherford (17) and Neil Broom (nine) quickly followed suit as the Knights' spin bowlers impressed on the large Bay Oval surface – even managing to get the Knights’ first lbw decision in a Georgie Pie Super Smash clash since November 2014.
The difference between the Knights' spinners and seamers doubled as the main difference in the match. The Volts found the Knights' pace bowling to their liking, the batsmen taking 112 runs from the eight overs of seam, compared to just 61 from 12 overs of spin, with five runs coming via byes and leg byes.
Despite the excellent offerings of Jono Boult (1-26), Ish Sodhi (1-15) and Anton Devcich (1-20), a crucial fourth wicket stand of 92 from 46 balls between Michael Bracewell (54) and Jimmy Neesham (49 not out) saw the Volts make 178/4.
Bracewell was dismissed on the last ball of the innings in a quirky manner – with the ball hitting him as he stood indecisively in the pitch looking for a second run, being ruled out for obstruction.
Needing to win in quick time to boost their net run rate and qualify for the finals, the Knights never looked like getting close.
Only four players reached double figures, with Devcich (12 from seven) and Daniel Flynn (20 from 12) starting the innings well but failing to push on, before two young prospects showed some more promise.
Wicketkeeper Tim Seifert made 21 from nine balls as he continued a breakout T20 campaign, while Nick Kelly was the last man dismissed for a 32-ball 42 as the Knights were all out for 122.
Kitchen ended with 3-31 while skipper Nathan McCullum (2-31) and Sam Wells (2-3) did the rest of the damage.
Seamers Jacob Duffy and Warren Barnes claimed the other wickets to fall as the Volts punched their ticket to New Plymouth.