NZC's last national Domestic Final of the 2021/22 summer takes place this Sunday in Queenstown - and Wellington Blaze will head into the match yet to lose a game all season.
The Otago Sparks have been confirmed as the team to join top qualifier the Blaze in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield showdown, by the skin of their bats.
The points race between the Sparks and Northern Districts for that privilege could not have been much closer.
The Sparks could do nothing but sit and watch the live-scoring on last Sunday as ND hosted the out-of-contention Auckland Hearts in Hamilton, in the last game of the HBJ regular season before the upcoming Grand Final - which will be livestreamed on NZC YouTube and at nzc.nz, but with no admission under the Protection Framework red setting.
A win (worth four points) would have put Northern Districts through to that Final.
Remarkably, the match instead finished as a rare tied game, worth only two points per team — which saw ND and the Sparks both finish on 25 points from their 10 rounds.
That meant net run rate decided which of those teams would progress, and the Sparks (with 1.28) held the mathematical advantage over ND (-0.02).
Sunday will be the Sparks' first appearance in the national one-day Final since 2013/14 when they beat the Auckland Hearts by three wickets in the Final to lift the title at Auckland's Melville Park.
This time around they have fortuitously landed a home Final (the John Davies Oval venue inked in ahead of this season, and set to follow the men's Ford Trophy final on the preceding day).
Both sides will be without their WHITE FERNS World Cup players, and the Sparks will be up against a Blaze side that has yet to experience defeat in either format this summer.
Wellington beat the Sparks here during the Dream11 Super Smash T20 campaign, so will have plenty of recent happy memories of the spectacular ground to draw on.
The Blaze are looking to add the national one-day title to the Dream11 Super Smash trophy already in the cabinet at the Basin Reserve.
The Final is live-scored and livestreamed at nzc.nz and on the NZC app.
HALLYBURTON JOHNSTONE SHIELD
2021/22 GRAND FINAL | John Davies Oval, Queenstown (behind closed gates)
Wellington Blaze v Otago Sparks
10.30am • Sunday 27 February 2022