It was a ditto day in the New Zealand's women's one-day national championship as the Wellington Blaze, Auckland Hearts and Otago Sparks all backed up yesterday's seventh-round wins with victory in the eighth round today (Sunday) – with those three teams now fighting for the two spots in the Final.
The Central Hinds, Northern Districts and the Canterbury Magicians can no longer catch the leading two teams, with the top two sides at the end of 10 rounds to progress to the 25 February national final.
The third-ranked Otago Sparks can control their own destiny if they can defeat the Auckland Hearts in the final two rounds on 17 and 18 February – once again at home in Dunedin.
Northern Districts meanwhile will be shut out by the results of those Sparks-Hearts games, no matter what – even if Northern win their own last two games, with bonus points.
And, while the Blaze currently sit top of the table and will get a place in the Grand Final thanks to having had more wins than any other team, there's no guarantee that they will stay on top, with the Sparks or Hearts still able to snatch the home final hosting rights from their grasp.
The Blaze have now won six of their eight matches, averting the washouts that have afflicted their rivals.
The Hinds were meanwhile left frustrated after another tight loss to the capital side today, yesterday's rain-thwarted chase followed by a 14-run loss after finishing today's chase nine down.
Star bowler Rosemary Mair was unable to bat, and had bowled just three overs early in the contest before a pulled quadriceps sidelined her from the rest of the match.
Blaze keeper-batter Jess McFadyen capitalised, the opener going on to reach her third List A one-day century, and achieving the rare feat of carrying her bat throughout the Blaze innings,with her knock of 122 not out off 132 balls ensuring the Blaze posted a defendable total of 271/6.
Hinds captain Natalie Dodd reached 76 and Hannah Rowe slammed a one-day career-best 64 off 61 balls in response.
But after a strong start, once again the Hinds' innings fell away against the Blaze's formidable spin attack, Xara Jetly picking up three wickets and Melie Kerr and Nicole Baird a brace each to ensure their side stayed ahead of the resurgent Hearts on the ladder.
The Hearts defeated the Canterbury Magicians by five wickets in Christchurch, despite knocks of 71 from dependable Canterbury captain Frankie Mackay and a showstopping, unbeaten 67* off just 42 balls (including 10 boundaries and one six) from WHITE FERNS veteran Lea Tahuhu, teeing off at eight.
But Hearts opener Saachi Shahri backed up her good performance in Saturday's clash with a top score of 75 off 61 balls tonight as the Hearts went after Canterbury's 260/8 in the day-nighter.
She found support from ex-Hinds youngster Cate Pedersen (43) in a century opening stand before WHITE FERNS Maddy Green (an unbeaten 70* from first drop) and Izzy Gaze (a career-best 49) kept the heat on, the Aucklanders getting across the line with three and a half overs to spare.
In Dunedin, the Sparks had helped themselves to a seven-wicket win after none of the Northern batters reached 50 after opting to bat first – Caitlin Gurrey top-scoring with 48 in a total of 194 all out.
The wickets were shared around a six-prong Sparks attack before the home top order marched into the chase, first drop Caitlin Blakely leading the way with 62 and captain Felicity Robertson finishing unbeaten on 49* as they got home in the 33rd over for a second coveted bonus point from their twin wins this weekend.
A bonus point win is worth five points, a regular win worth four points.
While the Sparks and Blaze will both stay put for the final two regular rounds in a fortnight's time, the Hinds will head home to host Northern in New Plymouth.
Points table at a glance - after 8 rounds