The best innings of Joseph Yovich's one-day cricket career was more than timely as it carried the State Northern Knights to a 49-run defeat of the State Otago Volts to lift the State Shield in Hamilton today.
In a final where ball dominated bat on a sluggish Seddon Park wicket, Yovich's unbeaten 78 off 76 balls proved the difference.
It handed Northern a deserved fifth title in 14 years and their first since 2004-05 -- having dominated this summer to qualify top with seven wins out 10.
It was questionable whether their 238 for nine would be enough but an Otago side missing their three best batsmen on New Zealand duty never threatened.
The defending champions were dismissed for 189 in the 46th over, with only a sizzling 44 off 23 balls from No 9 Ian Butler showing any signs of urgency.
It capped a superb match for former New Zealand paceman Butler against his former association, having claimed career-best figures of five for 55. His outstanding all round performance boosted him from 12th to 3rd in the State Shield MVP rankings.
Those figures were bettered by veteran Northern seamer Graeme Aldridge, who also bagged the best return of his career with five for 39 off nine overs.
Aldridge also contributed 36 off 39 balls with the bat and he was later named man of the match.
Just as effective with the ball for Northern were spinners Bruce Martin and Kane Williamson, who applied the brakes through the middle part of Otago's innings.
Both conceded 23 runs in an unbroken 20-over tandem effort that ended in the 38th over, with Northern by then struggling at 122 for five and requiring 116 runs off the last 12 overs.
The chief Otago culprit was Otago's English import Dimitri Mascarenhas, whose bizarre innings of 17 off 70 balls was in complete contrast to the rest of the summer where he has been the competition's fastest scorer.
Earlier, Aaron Redmond scored 29 for Otago and stand-in captain Nathan McCullum reached 33 but the southerners seriously missed skipper Craig Cumming, Brendon McCullum and Neil Broom, who are all with the New Zealand squad in Australia.
Earlier it looked like Northern may have paid the price for naming New Zealand batsman Daniel Flynn as their 12th man as they were reduced to 125 for six in the 33rd over.
However, 32-year-old Yovich stepped up with the best innings of his 96-match one-day career.
He mixed patience with aggressive strokemaking, hitting six fours and three sixes.
His fireworks helped Northern compile a match-winning 97 runs off their last 10 overs and his heroics moved him from 14th to 7th place in the State Shield MVP rankings.