The Stags headed to Southland for the second time this summer no doubt with their commanding Burger King Super Smash win away to the Volts at their southernmost venue still fresh in the memory.
Needing to gain traction on The Ford Trophy table from fifth spot, home captain Rob Nicol opted to bat first for the Invercargill locals, but it was the Stags who dealt the first blow — Bevan Small, who opened the attack with Adam Milne, claiming Hamish Rutherford caught off his second over.
Blair Tickner made a quick impact at first change, claiming both Shawn Hicks (a return catch) and Nicol who was judged caught behind off a short ball — Nicol seemingly unconvinced that it had brushed his glove, but his side on the back foot regardless at 32 for three.
That brought the Volts’ “backstop man” Derek de Boorder to the middle in just the 11th over, looking to build a partnership with Neil Broom. He was barely off the mark when he slapped a widish Tickner for six, but the pair would fall in rapid succession to put Tickner (previous List A best: 3-56) on a new Ford Trophy best hauk of 4-19 off his six-over spell, ultimately coming home with 4-43 after the Volts tail desperately looked for runs in his last spell.
Jimmy Neesham now paired with Michael Rippon to try to rebuild from a catastrophic 57 for five, Milne coming back into the attack along with spinner Ajaz Patel.
Neesham lofted Patel for two sixes back over the bowler’s head, and swivelled into another off Small for good measure, but was left kicking himself, and the ground, as he became Christian Leopard’s maiden List A wicket when he was caught by Leopard’s former New Zealand Under-19s teammate Josh Clarkson on 40, just shy of a 50-stand for the sixth wicket.
Leopard’s sharp fielding was then on display as he rocketed the ball in from the midfield to run out Rippon on 21.
A 30-run stand between Matt Bacon and Michael Rae (who smacked a six to raise the Volts’ 150 in a career best 21 off 20) for the last wicket inflated the Volts’ total to 167, but after off-spinner George Worker wrapped up the other final three wickets for 3-13 off just 2.overs, the southerners went to lunch knowing they had a stiff ask defending their work with the barnstorming Stags requiring just a shade over three runs per over.
Worker and Ben Smith (28) got their reply off to a sound start, Smith unlucky to find himself run out at the non-striker’s after bowler Bacon deflected the ball onto the stumps. By then, however, the Stags required just a further 101 to win, nine in hand.
If the Volts were praying for rain, a shower duly arrived after the next over, Worker pausing on 35* while Jesse Ryder had been off the mark with a boundary in his 175th List A appearance.
It was only a brief reprieve with the pair quickly charging to a run-a-ball 50-stand, and Worker to his second half century in a week, before Michael Rae gave the home supporters something to cheer by removing Worker and then form horse Will Young, both caught in the space of four balls for a double wicket maiden.
Unfortunately for the Volts, the Stags were already in firmly in control, Worker and Ryder having punished Neesham’s preceding two overs and now requiring fewer than 50 to win, with an ocean of time and wickets to get them.
Josh Clarkson blasted a quick unbeaten 26 while Ryder marked his 175th List A appearance by smashing the winning boundary to finish up the six-wicket win on an unbeaten 48 off 36 balls, the Stags taking just 24 overs to claim their third bonus point victory of the season.
With their winning streak now up to five, the Stags also became the first team to qualify for the 2018 Finals series and will now look to two big results against the Wellington Firebirds in Wellington midweek and against ND in Napier next Sunday to further enhance their position.
The Volts are next in action in Dunedin on Wednesday, also set to face ND — and urgently looking to get up into the top four.