At the beginning of the day there were three teams left in the hunt for the NZC Women’s Twenty20 title.
By the end of Saturday’s penultimate round, just two remain alive despite the top trio of Wellington Blaze, the Auckland Hearts and the Canterbury Magicians all pocketing wins.
Blaze crucially remains four points ahead of their nearest rivals the Hearts, while the Magicians needed Blaze to lose today to have any hope of claiming the title — and the Blaze wasn’t prepared to let that happen. The Hearts, meanwhile, must now hope tomorrow's weather plays ball to keep their chances alive.
The side went in wary, however, knowing unpredictable Northern Spirit’s reputation for slaying giants — Blaze captain Liz Perry deciding she would prefer to chase in the feature match on Bert Sutcliffe Oval.
Spirit’s opening batsmen, Bernadine Bezuidenhout and Natalie Dodd the two top run-makers in the competition to date, often dictate the side’s fortunes so there was huge relief among the Blaze fielders when Deanna Doughty (above) removed the prolific Bezuidenhout third ball of the day, for no score; then added the wicket of replacement Felicity Leydon-Davis two balls later in exactly the same manner, trapping both batsmen.
That left the run burden with Spirit captain Dodd (below) who knuckled down for three-quarters of the innings, reaching a run-a-ball 37 before she was stumped off Amelia Kerr in the 16th over.
Dodd and Regina Lili’i (36 off 52) had battled their way to 73 for three before Dodd fell, then Lucy Doolan (3-22) swept in to curtail a late charge from the rest of the order with three wickets, Spirit getting themselves up to 117 for seven.
It wasn’t likely to be enough against the top side in the competition, even after Doolan was run out in the first over of the reply.
Sophie Devine took charge at the top, ruthlessly smashing her 40 off just 19 balls, including three sixes, alongside Rachel Priest (39 off 23) to give Blaze a power start.
The big-hitting pair departed within three balls of each other but by then the damage was done, and the remaining batsman had a simple task ahead with the winning runs clocked in just the 12th over.