Outright Plunket Shield victories to Canterbury in Rangiora, and to the Central Stags in Palmerston North this week, mean they are now the last two survivors in the tightly contested race for this season's New Zealand first-class championship, the history-laden Plunket Shield.
The Stags are fresh off white-ball and red-ball wins | MBUTCHER
The Stags still have a red-ball game in hand, staying in reach of the Shield after an Ajaz Patel six-for helped them set up a five-wicket victory against the Otago Volts today.
Canterbury remains top of the first-class ladder on 101 points,but have completed their first-class matches. Only one game is left to come on the first-class front, and that will see the Stags needing an outright win - 12 points - against the Auckland Aces at Saxton Oval (1-4 April) to deny Canterbury the trophy, with a nervous wait in store for the red and blacks who lost control of their own destiny two rounds ago.
In the meantime, there will be an opportunity to get in some banter when these very two teams, the Stags and Canterbury, meet in The Ford Trophy Grand Final - the national one-day title going on the line at McLean Park from 11am this Tuesday, 28 March.
Canterbury weapon Will O'Rourke | MButcher
Livestreamed with live commentary and multicamera angles on NZC channels, the match is free admission for the Hawke's Bay public and it's the first national final to be contested at McLean Park since 2001 - when the same two teams met in a best-of-three Finals series spread across both Napier and Christchurch.
The Stags won that Series 2-1 and these two classic rivals have contested several more Ford Trophy Finals against each other since, in the intervening 22 years.
Canterbury most recently won The Ford Trophy in 2021 and 2017 while the Stags lifted the crown back to back in 2015 (against the Auckland Aces) and 2016 (against Canterbury).
The Central Stags are heading in as the top qualifier for the second year running this summer, but succumbed to the Auckland Aces in last year's trophy showdown in Queenstown.
They will be eager to deliver a more convincing performance for their home supporters in Hawke's Bay, with gates opening for the free admission finale at 10am on Tuesday.