As the Canterbury Kings looked to go out with a bang, Ronnie Hira smashed a knock so entertaining at McLean Park that even the home Devon Hotel Central Stags supporters were willing the purple destroyer on to what would have been his first domestic Twenty20 century.
Seven sixes and almost as many aggressive fours saw the punchy opener immediately begin brutalising the local attack for an unbeaten 91 off just 41 balls, a 200-plus strike rate maintained throughout. The result was that it took the Kings fewer than 12 overs to hunt down the Stags’ tally of 136-4 and sign off from 2014’s Georgie Pie Super Smash with a crushing, eight-wicket statement.
Only the sub-par target put paid to Hira’s hopes of busting Jamie How’s record for the fastest New Zealand Twenty20 century. Yet, for all the Kings’ one-sided dominance in their last fling, they were left with that hollow feeling of witnessing what might have been, having already been shut out of the competition’s qualifying top three.
For the Stags there was also disappointment. Kruger van Wyk had won the toss on a fine Hawke’s Bay day but they finished with just one win from their three-match home festival. George Worker found himself dismissed for the first time in three games when Kings debutant Ben McCord had him caught in the fifth over. Will Young (49 off 39 and denied a half-century by being run out on the last ball of the innings) and Dane Cleaver (35 off 26) took over and played positively after the Stags had been a quiet 89-3 at the 15 over mark, but even with the Stags’ capable attack, their final tally, at a run rate of just over one a ball, was never going to be enough to put pressure on a hurting team with nothing to lose.
Hira had a strong day at the office with the ball, too, picking up van Wyk’s wicket in his lean four overs. The Stags captain had kept the third umpire in work, scrambling and scrapping for any quick run he could, but was stopped on 11 as McCord collected his first catch.
But it’s Hira’s brazen batting that the crowd will not forget, sending Cleaver racing off up and over the bank at one stage to locate the thoroughly slaughtered ball. His 50 came off just 23 balls, taking fewer than six overs. When he punched 24 runs off Bevan Small’s first five balls, the message had been clear: buckle your seatbelts, sit back and enjoy the show from a competitor who just hates losing out on silverware.