Wizards cast spell over Stags in HRV Cup

Career-best batting efforts by Andy Ellis and Brendon Diamanti combined with nerveless death bowling from English pro Mitchell Claydon has seen the Canterbury Wizards defeat the Devon Hotel Central Stags for the second time in three days at Nelson's Saxton Oval.

Ellis (55* off 34) and Diamanti (69* off 33) each posted maiden HRV Cup fifties as they assumed control of the second half of the Wizards' innings, ensuring the Cantabrians recovered from a perilous 73/5 in the 11th over and pouring on an unbeaten 112-run stand to produce the highest sixth wicket partnership of the summer.

Their controlled aggression produced seven sixes amid 14 boundaries, with Zimbabwean international Kyle Jarvis left to dust himself off after a particularly brutal death over that cost him 22 runs, all from the bat of former BLACKCAP Diamanti. Like Ellis, Diamanti's hitting was crisp and authoritative throughout, and extended the Wizards' score to a much more pleasing 185/5 in their 20 overs, having won the toss and batted first.

Needing more than nine per over, Mathew Sinclair and Ben Smith got the Stags' reply off to a suitably rollicking start, with Smith cracking the ball all around the wicket before he was tragically run out in the 7th over as bowler Ronnie Hira deflected a powerful Sinclair drive onto the non-striker's stumps.

Smith was gone for a splendid 39, and ironically it was another smashing drive that was Sinclair's own undoing exactly halfway through the innings, Ellis catching a stinger in the covers when Sinclair was set on 38.

While the Stags were on top of the run rate with plenty of wickets in hand, ultimately they could not emulate the late order feats of Ellis and Diamanti. By the 15th the required equation had climbed on them, the pressure growing with each ball on in-form Will Young (who finished with an unbeaten 40 off 33) and his captain Kieran Noema-Barnett to find the elusive boundary.

Finally Noema-Barnett busted out his moves and scooped Gareth Andrew for 6 off the first ball of the 16th, but Andrew and Logan van Beek pegged it back, the Stags requiring 37 runs off the last three overs and a tense finish guaranteed.

Noema-Barnett's wicket - his middle stump sent flying by Claydon's pace - was a major blow to the Stags' momentum until they were left needing a tall order of 15 runs from Claydon's final over, the 20th, but could manage only frantic twos as the Wizards won by five runs to rack up their second consecutive victory.

The late charge by the Cantabrians sees them gain ground over the Stags on the lower rungs of the HRV Cup points table, with their next opponents the HELL Wellington Firebirds in Rangiora on January 6. The Stags will meet the Otago Volts the same day, but before then the Volts have the Auckland Aces to contend with in a key SKY televised clash at Eden Park tomorrow evening.

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