A great start to Auckland Cricket's first home match of the season | PHOTOSPORT

Cricket returns to Auckland!

Anna Peterson played Scrooge for Christmas, the spinner's miserly wicket-taking spell putting the brakes on Northern Brave - and the Auckland Hearts taking all the presents from under the tree in the first match in Auckland this summer.

It was a cracking start from their northern neighbours the Brave, captain Brooke Halliday having elected to bat.

With Caitlin Gurrey and Kate Anderson both slamming boundaries off the first three balls of the game, it looked like a great day for it on a flat, sun-drenched track, too.

But senior pace bowlers Arlene Kelly and Holly Huddleston quickly pegged back their aggression, and upped the pressure to score with a tight follow-up.

Kate Anderson is run out | PHOTOSPORT

The Brave would ultimately lose their way with a series rash strokes on the warm, humid morning.

Gurrey was typically strong and a joy to watch through the covers, and top-scored with 34. But that did not look enough.

Miserly Peterson had her wicket in the 13th over and at that stage was sitting on a brilliant 3-9.

Three wickets had just fallen for the cost of one run, including former WHITE FERN Sam Barriball and Nensi Patel - fresh off her career best on Friday against the same side.

After removing Gurrey at 74/6, Peterson went on to final figures of 3-14 in a superb spell, while tall young Molly Penfold also impressed in a wicket-taking cameo with the ball that netted the wicket of Barriball for just three.

The Brave's tail gutsed their way through to 103/8 which should not have been enough to trouble the Hearts with their rich core of experience.

Spilled chances and caught and bowled opportunities hurt the Brave's chances in reply with the ball, but also made for a nervy Hearts chase.

Holly Huddleston had no sooner survived a dropped chance off Halliday than she departed to a return catch next ball, a huge wicket for the Brave with the half-ton heroine from the last match in Hamilton departing scoreless.

Twelve overs in, the Hearts were making hard work of it at 58/4, top batters getting starts, but not cashing in - and dropping below the required rate.

First drop Katie Perkins remained at her post however, and combined now with another vastly experienced contributor in Arlene Kelly as they upped the strike rate and peeled 12 off the 14th over to whittle the chase to under run-a-ball.

Kelly was caught after she advanced down the wicket to Patel, ending their 24-stand at 82/5 - but by now just 22 from 28 balls was needed.

It was a scrappy performance from both sides until a huge moment in the 18th over when Lucy Boucher held on to a vital and good catch off Halliday to finally dismiss Perkins for a run-a-ball 29.

But young Izzy Gaze confidently lapped the next ball to the rope to grab back the momentum very next ball.

Six down, eight runs needed from the tense last two overs and Boucher herself tasked with bowling the 19th.

But calmly directed boundaries from Gaze and Skye Bowden finished the job with seven balls to spare for a four-wicket Hearts win.

SCORES