The Auckland Hearts are in the box seat to pick up a home Hallyburton Johnstone Shield final after defeating the Wellington Blaze by 13 runs at Colin Maiden park Today.
The Hearts had two different debutants – bowler Amie Hucker played her first match, while Regina Lilii played her first match as captain.
Batting first, Saachi Shahri and Holly Huddleston got the Hearts off to a great start, hitting 63 from the first 13 overs, as they battled with a slow outfield.
Scoring slowed after Huddleston was caught for 31 and Shahri for 25. The Hearts crossed the 100-run mark in the 26th over, and Arlene Kelly and Jesse Prasad worked to set a solid platform.
Unfortunately, they were out within two overs of each other, the Hearts at 144/6.
With two new batsmen at the crease, the Blaze could have expected the run-rate to drop. Instead, Emma Fulbrook set about putting runs on the board, even as she lost partners. Skye Bowden made a run-a-ball 13, but when she was out LBW off Jess Kerr, Fulbrook was joined by number 10 Roz McNeill.
McNeill and Fulbrook then put together a clever partnership, farming the strike and making 30 off the final five overs – a new ninth-wicket record for Auckland against Wellington.
The Hearts finished 50 overs at 111/9.
Huddleston and Kelly got the Hearts bowling underway, removing both openers for 25 runs.
Enter Blaze captain Liz Perry. Batting for 32 overs, she put on 54 runs together with Suzie McDonald, the pair absorbing a huge number of dot balls from McNeill and Kelly.
With no cloud cover, the outfield had quickened up, something the Blaze batsmen made the most of, as the extended partnership began to bite against the Hearts.
Bowden got the breakthrough – a direct hit from most of the way to the boundary, McDonald was caught out of her crease for 20.
There wasn’t much letup for the Hearts however, Perry partnering with Thamsyn Newton to take the Blaze to the point where they needed just over 5.5 an over, and were poised to launch.
Then the bizzare happened. Perry took a swipe at a wide ball from Bella Armstrong and spun out of her crease. Some quick glovework from Tariel Lamb had Perry stumped. The umpires signalled first the wicket, and then the wide.
There was nothing strange about Armstrong’s next wicket – Kerr clean bowled for 12.
Wellington couldn’t do what Auckland had in the first innings, their lower order unable to hit boundaries as Huddleston and Kelly returned to the attack. Three wickets in the 48th over, including Newton caught off Huddleston for 53, and the Blaze foundered.
Huddleston finished the job herself, bowling out Allex Evans to give the Hearts a 13-run victory.
The two teams play again tomorrow from 10:00am.