The pressure was on and the Otago Sparks responded with a huge eight-wicket win pushing them ahead of the Auckland Hearts on net run rate to claim the last available spot in the 2017 national T20 Final.
It was heartbreak for the Hearts, and for the Blaze who ended their T20 season being swept off Karori Park, while the unbeaten Canterbury Magicians took care of the Hearts’ chances further south and will now look forward to hosting the 2017 Final on Saturday 11 February.
The Magicians will also host the 2017 One-Day Final, to be played at Hagley Oval the following day, Sunday 12 February, after qualifying top. They will be joined there by defending One-Day champs the Hearts, who gave the Magicians a reminder they are not the only team to be feared in the land after inflicting heavy back-to-back losses on Waitangi weekend in the final two matches of the regular season to secure the last spot in the One-Day Final.
In the crunch Twenty20, the Sparks needed fewer than 16 overs to chase down Blaze’s 96 for seven, the capital hosts now without the Sophie Devine factor after the star WHITE FERN dislocated a thumb.
WHITE FERN Leigh Kasperek made a quick impact for the Sparks, putting herself on a hat-trick with the big top order wickets of Rachel Priest and Suzie McDonald (below), Blaze in a spin at 17 for three. Kasperek would go on to a haul of 3-24 while Suzie Bates (2-15) had already taken care of Eimear McDonald.
Blaze captain Liz Perry was their lone light with 33, desperately trying to get things going again alongside Fran Wilson. But with only three of the side reaching double figures, they eventually crumbled away to 96 for seven in their 20 overs.
It was going to take something extraordinary to stop the Sparks from chasing that down, Bates easing the way with her 31 in a 46-run opening stand. When she was caught off Richardson, fellow WHITE FERN Katey Martin came in with confidence and hammered an unbeaten 35 off 32 balls to sow it up in a dramatic finish to the regular season, with 4.3 overs remaining after the winning boundary.
There was then a nervous wait for the Sparks while the results — and net run rates — of the other games came through, but the Cinderellas were off to the ball.
Women’s Twenty20 Final
Saturday 11 February
Start time 12 noon
Canterbury Magicians v Otago Sparks
Mainpower Oval, Rangiora
Women’s One-Day Final
Sunday 12 February
Start time 10am
Canterbury Magicians v Auckland Hearts
Hagley Oval, Christchurch