Melie Kerr | Images: PHOTOSPORT

Blaze bounces back to league lead

Defending women's champion Wellington Blaze has reclaimed the coveted top rung of the ladder after a 37-run win over the Central Hinds at the Basin Reserve this afternoon.

Blaze's seventh win from nine games propelled the team back into a two-point lead over the Canterbury Magicians - the top qualifier at the end of the regular season gaining direct entry to the Grand Final whilst the second and third ranked qualifiers must face off in an Elimination Final two days earlier.

Asked to field first, the out-of-contention Hinds were coming off back-to-back victories but on this occasion were hampered in their efforts to contain the Blaze by a plague of dropped skied catches, as well as the unfortunate loss early on of co-captain Jess Watkin who dislocated a finger whilst attempting a difficult, and shelled, catch.

Watkin took no further part in the game, a big loss at the top of the order for the visitors as they attempted to chase down Blaze's 162/5.

For Blaze, Sophie Devine (88 off 58) had made the most of the let-offs in the field to top-score with a well-paced 88 off 58 balls. It wasn't Devine's typical fast start and aggressive big-hitting, but was nonetheless effective in the circumstances.

That was until the arrival of substitute fielder Monique Rees, coming in for Watkin. Rees took a screamer that saw the WHITE FERNS star miss out on a golden chance of another century in the campaign.

However, dominant Devine's 73-run opening stand with captain Maddy Green (16), who turned the strike over nicely, and her 62-run second-wicket stand with Melie Kerr (38 off 29) had already put the Blaze on track for a winning total.

Despite an unbeaten half century from Natalie Dodd - 61* off 55, her fifth overall in the T20 format but first for the Hinds, in what was almost Central's record fourth wicket stand with Hannah Rowe (39) - the Hinds couldn't fight back quickly enough from the loss of early wickets and the required rate ran away from them.

Blaze now controls its own destiny in the tight race to cement the top qualifier spot, needing only to win their final regular season game against fellow qualifier the Auckland Hearts at Eden Park Outer Oval this Sunday 7 February to lock it in.

Wellington Blaze beat Central Hinds by 37 runs