A speccy from the Sparks | Images PHOTOSPORT

Otago Sparks stun Blaze in Hallyburton Johnstone Shield Final

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 Otago Sparks beat Wellington Blaze by 138 runs

John Davies Oval, Queenstown

Sunday 27 February 2022


The Otago Sparks pulled off a victory almost as spectacular as The Remarkables behind them with a 138-run win to lift the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield for 2022 - with a bowling performance that included fine catches, a maiden wicket, maiden bag and the best figures in any Final.

Opponents the Wellington Blaze had gone into the Queenstown showdown without having lost a match all season, but that winning streak ended as the Sparks upset the top qualifier.

It was a dominant all-round performance, Eden Carson walking off the park with the best bowling figures in the history of national women’s one-day finals with her maiden bag: 5-17, including no fewer than three wicket maidens as well as two regular maidens in her brilliant 10 overs.

Earlier, Sparks captain Kate Ebrahim was instrumental in putting a competitive total on the board after she won the toss and elected to bat at a fine and sunny John Davies Oval.

The veteran opening batter held the fort into the final over of the innings for the day's top score of 92, and shared a century stand (103 off 157 balls) with Caitlin Blakely for the second wicket.

Blakely (above) was the first of the pair to go past 50 en route to a knock of 52 off 87 balls - before double breakthrough from Blaze youngster Kate Chandler gave the Wellingtonians an opening to fight back with wickets.

Up and comer Chandler finished with 3-30, and Xara Jetly was in thick of the action as well with two wickets and a hand in two runouts - the latter being Ebrahim’s downfall off the first ball of the last over when a century was in her sights.

But the capital could not quite bowl out the southerners who reached a good total of 220/9 despite just three batters reaching double figures, with a cameo from Saffron Wilso also providing support for Ebrahim.

No stranger to winning titles, Ebrahim’s cricket nous and calm authority was on show again as she marshalled the young Sparks attack towards a stunning victory — Blaze crumbling to 82 all out in just 28.5 overs, and 17 extras the chief contributor to the sorry scorecard.

Harriett Cuttance took a wicket in her first over of HBJ cricket | MBUTCHER

Harriett Cuttance — making her one-day debut and opening the bowling alongside Emma Black — had her maiden wicket in her very first over when Rebecca Burns edged behind and keeper Polly Inglis dived, stuck out her right mitt and held a special catch.

It immediately consolidated the Sparks' team spirit.

Black (3-13) also did early damage at the top, the Blaze soon 23/3 — and from there the Sparks just got better and better with every wicket.

Eden Carson came on in the 10th over with Jetly and Blaze captain Thamsyn Newton trying to rescue their side from a position of 30/4 — the Sparks having been 30/1 at the same stage.

Carson began with a maiden over to Jetly, then followed up with a wicket maiden as she trapped her at 32/5.

A couple of overs later Carson had Newton cheaply as well; bowled another maiden to Maneka Singh for the 18th, then had Olivia Boivin caught behind in the 20th at 54/7.

A slick return catch off her own bowling had Singh walking back at 63/8 (another wicket maiden), then the catch of the match sealed Carson’s maiden one-day five-wicket bag in the 26th over — yes, yet another wicket maiden — as Tash Codyre lobbed up a chance and Marina Lamplough raced to her left, stretched into a dive and held a one-handed speccy to push Blaze to the brink of defeat.

Carson already had a bag for the Sparks in the T20 format and possibly topped that today with a special performance, bolwed out just before Sophie Oldershaw sealed the 138-run landslide victory.

Ebrahim has now lifted the trophy for two consecutive seasons — having won it with the Canterbury Magicians last year, and also in 2017, and with the Central Hinds in 2010.


Kate Ebrahim

“Twelve months and I’ve played in four Finals: that is quite special to me. I am chuffed to win two back-to-back HBJ titles. When it comes to these pressure games, you need to know the skill of how to deal with the pressure and perform under the pressure in these big games. I guess I’m fortunate in that aspect to have played in a few finals and to be able to win this HBJ today, that is the pinnacle to me. I’ve loved every minute of this season with this team in this competition.

“Before this season, the Sparks had lost 23 games on the trot, in this competition. In the preseason, they sat down and agreed that they wanted to turn a page. We put basic plans in place for them to be able to hopefully achieve that, and then early in the season, we managed to get some momentum with wins, and carried that on through our Dream11 Super Smash season.

“So I’m massively proud of the team - and today without a number of our players available. It’s exciting for Otago Cricket.

“The toss was big. I wanted to bat first, knowing that the Wellington unit hadn’t chased a lot this season.

"There’s an art to chasing. You have to really clear in how you want to chase, and I think that’s where we got on top. With that total on the board and the bowling attack that we have got, I fully believed we could rattle that Blaze batting line-up. We put pressure on their middle to lower order by holding catches and our bowlers were very good today — and we stuck at it to the end.

“I’m stoked for Caitlin Blakely as well. We talked about partnerships yesterday as a team, at training. Caitlin has improved each season, learned the craft — and those things take time, as a young batter. She’s progressed nicely over the last few seasons, had a great summer, and now she’s a great asset for us who underpins partnerships. She was special today.

“Eden’s another player who is still learning her craft and yet successful at the same time, and that’s exciting. Full credit to Edes. We talked about how our bowling attack can be lethal, and she and Blackie are key leaders of that. Eden did the job she was asked to do, and in a Final. She was outstanding.”

Eden Carson

“When Marina took that screamer, that was so good. Wow — it just stuck, and luckily for me that was my fifth wicket. To take a bag in a Final, I’m thrilled with that.

A fly-by for Carson's fifth wicket | MBUTCHER

“We were confident at the innings break. We had been looking to get 180-plus, so 220 was a good total for us. Kate’s knock really built the pressure on the Blaze, with the big score.

“Then we backed our bowlers to do the job. Harriett [Cuttance] got a wicket on debut which was great for the team, and then I think the chat in the field between everyone was probably the best it has been this season. The team morale was so good coming into this Final.

“We hadn’t played for two weeks, and you never know what’s going to happen on the day.

"Two finals, and same teams this season, but we hadn’t won against them for a while... In the Dream11 Super Smash Final they beat us, but today we were the ones to come out on top and so it was great!"






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