OTAGO VOLTS CLAIM PLAYOFFS BERTH
- Colin Munro century blasts Auckland Aces to crucial bonus point win -
- Firebirds suffer heartbreaking DLS loss in dramatic finish with Stags -
- Rookie Firebird Andrew Fletcher breaks season runs record -
- Aces, ND chasing final remaining playoffs berth -
The Stags’ turbulent win in a tight DLS contest came in a match that saw its first innings played out in glorious sunshine — but conditions deteriorated into a frigid afternoon after thunderstorms rolled in during the lunch break, followed by a brisk southerly front that arrived midway through the Firebirds’ chase.
A second disruption for rain later in the afternoon would see the match called, all players departing the field immediately after teenage rookie Jakob Bhula (above) had been caught on 99.
One ball earlier, with the Firebirds 188 for three, the Central Stags had held a mere one-run lead over them on the DLS par scoring system. But with a devastated Bhula unable to reach his maiden century off the next delivery — and his dismissal proving to be the final act of the match as the rain returned, the maths came back as a seven-run DLS win to the Stags.
The gutted Firebirds had earlier got off to a solid start, pouring on 104 for the first wicket.
It was a doubly cruel blow for the competition leaders as, across the Canterbury plains in Christchurch, the weather held long enough for rivals the Otago Volts to claim a dramatic four-wicket victory against Canterbury at Hagley Oval. That result saw the Volts bolt up to just one point below the Firebirds on the points table, the Volts now capable of overtaking the Firebirds in Saturday’s Round 10, the last round before the Elimination Final.
Today's results set up a fascinating final round between the remaining hot contenders. If the Otago Volts — who will be playing the Auckland Aces in Invercargill — can overtake the Firebirds — who will be facing Northern Districts in Whangarei — on Saturday, the Volts will secure a home Grand Final.
Whether in fact they head to the Elimination or Grand Final, the Volts are at least now qualified, with Northern Districts and the Auckland Aces set to battle it out for the last spot, and the Firebirds having already qualified in the previous round.
Who will host the Grand Final, and which two teams will head to the sudden death Elimination Final, still remains up in the air. However, should the Wellington Firebirds finish in the top spot, they will cede hosting rights to The Ford Trophy Grand Final as both the Basin Reserve and Wellington Stadium is unavailable on the day of The Ford Trophy Grand Final, 1 December.
Meanwhile, the Auckland Aces' bonus point victory today, set up by a belligerent Colin Munro century, elevated the Aucklanders to third spot with one round to go. That bonus point also knocked the Central Stags out of contention ahead of their final match with Canterbury at Pukekura Park.