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Hearts fall to Blaze for hosting heartbreak

The Auckland Hearts are on the painful end of some cruel calculations after losing their Hallyburton John match against the Wellington Blaze today.

Although the Hearts won yesterday, because the Central Hinds picked up two bonus-point wins, the hosting rights for the final came down to run-rate – which the Hinds edged the Hearts on.

It was a horror start for the Hearts today at Colin Maiden Park. Holly Huddleston was caught for a first-ball duck, and Regina Lilii and Arlene Kelly quickly followed. Four overs in, the Hearts were 4/3.

The Auckland woes were compounded three overs later, when Bella Armstrong was unluckily adjudged LBW.

The innings needed a solid partnership. Saachi Shahri and Jesse Prasad stepped up to provide one. The two young Hearts players consolidated with smart running and some beautiful shots. As they settled into their work, they then began to find the boundary.

Shahri brought up her 50 first, with a crunching four just after the Hearts crossed the 100-run mark.

The 100 partnership quickly followed, eclipsing the previous fifth wicket partnership for Auckland versus Wellington.

Then it was Prasad’s turn to raise her bat. A welcome half-century from a player whose previous highest score was 17.

Unfortunately, Prasad’s innings was cut short on 52 after she skied a ball from Rebecca Burns straight upwards to be caught by keeper Lucy Lucy Doolan. Auckland was left on 127/5.

Shahri continued to steady the ship, with timing and impeccable awareness between the wickets.

After almost three hours at the crease, disaster struck. A ball from Jess Kerr which kept low on the two-day-old pitch, and skittled her off-stump. Shahri departed for 89, the Hearts 178/7.

The tail saw out the rest of the overs, number 11 Amie Hucker run out on the last ball. The Hearts reached a total of 195 – a solid effort given the situation after seven overs.

Auckland needed to take early wickets to put pressure on Wellington, but struggled to find the right length. Blaze openers Burns and Doolan were punishing on anything too short, and the Hearts quickly found themselves on the back foot.

Prasad removed Doolan for 33, and Huddleston bowled Burns for 52 – but in the 19th over, the Blaze were already well in excess of the required run-rate.

Blaze captain Liz Perry was next in, and once she got going, the match had an air of inevitability about it. The Auckland bowlers went in search of wickets, and instead found themselves wayward.

Wellington didn’t drag it out – they finished their six-wicket win in the 42nd over.

The result left the Hearts ruing missed bonus points, as in Palmerston North the Central Hinds had already completed their second staggering victory of the weekend against Otago.

The Hearts and Hinds finished equal on points, bonus points, and wins – but the Hinds had the better net run-rate. The Hearts will have to travel to Central Districts next week to play the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield final.

Full scorecard here.

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