The Auckland Hearts will host the Dream11 Super Smash Elimination Finals this Thursday while the Canterbury Magicians have secured direct entry to Saturday's Grand Final at the Basin Reserve - and it all came down to this exciting, low-scoring thriller at Outer Oval, the very last game of the league's regular season.
The Heart's stunning victory sets up a rematch with today's opponent and - threepeat defending champions - the Wellington Blaze who got a timely reminder that there are other slick contenders for the title.
Blaze must now beat the Hearts the second time around if they are to join the Magicians in the 2021 Grand Final, while today's result also means the Central Stags and Canterbury Kings will be heading to Auckland this Thursday for their 2v3 playoff on neutral turf.
The Hearts successfully defended a tame tally of 117 against one of the strongest batting line-ups in the league with a sizzling performance with the ball - and they needed to sizzle indeed with the likes of Sophie Devine, Melie Kerr and Maddy Green in the Blaze's power-packed top order.
But Devine, Kerr and booming hitter Rebecca Burns, back from injury, were all early wickets in the chase, opening the door for the Hearts to sneak a shock win.
Hearts captain Lauren Down had won the toss, but was herself an early casualty as the Blaze made a strong start of their own with the ball - the two innings almost a mirror image.
The hosts were in early trouble, Anna Peterson and Bella Armstrong also gone inside the first 3.1 overs after Green did the catching duties to put Devine on a hat-trick across two overs.
But from 16/3, Katie Perkins (29) and Holly Huddleston (16) crucially steadied the ship before Melie Kerr (2-20) bowled them both, ripping out her wrong'un to outfox Huddleston.
Regina Lili'i (17) and then Jesse Prasad (18) faced some tight Blaze bowling, but Prasad kept things ticking over as the anchor for the rest of the innings.
Momentum at the death was stifled, however, as she lost two partners at the start of the 19th - Thamsyn Newton's deadly arm running out Arlene Kelly and Tariel Lamb falling victim to the Kerr sisters; before Devine grabbed a further two wickets with her last two balls in the 20th to finish with 4-21.
That was Devine's best T20 haul for Wellington Blaze, having also taken 5-41 for the Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL.
The odds were all with the Blaze with the Hearts confined to 117 all out - dismissed on that last ball of the innings. But the Hearts are highly regarded for their fielding, and would put in a fierce defence of that total, with very few blemishes.
Get a load of this one-handed speccy from Katie Perkins to dismiss Sophie Devine!— Spark Sport (@sparknzsport) February 7, 2021
A massive wicket for the Auckland Hearts, can they capitalise on the momentum? pic.twitter.com/VPzymZgOgg
The highlight was a Katie Perkins screamer that removed Devine for just six, and later, her dangerous arm ensured Thamsyn Newton was run out at a crucial moment in the game.
Meanwhile, spinner Anna Peterson had got the Hearts beating quickly, getting Devine and Melie Kerr in back-to-back deliveries across her first two overs. Yup, mirror image.
However, the Blaze finished the power play at 44/2, well set thanks to Blaze skipper Green.
Green reached 33 at run-a-ball pace, but then Jesse Prasad entered the attack in the 11th and enticed a catch to Peterson at backward point.
Prasad, Peterson and Jonas squeezed the Blaze through the middle before Huddleston capitalised on the pressure and took two wickets in the 16th over. When Peterson ran out the dangerous Jess McFadyen in the next, the match had tantalisingly swung round into the Hearts' favour.
It was still going to be tight: a couple of boundaries and Blaze's last pair managed to reduce the equation to 12 off 12, or 11 for a tie - which would have had the Magicians pipped on net run rate for direct entry to the Grand Final.
So much was riding on the result as it came down to six for the win, with one wicket in hand and seven balls left. But instead Peterson threw down the stumps at the end of the 19th to collect her second run-out of the day and secure a home crowd at the Elimination Final on Thursday.
The Hearts and Blaze will go again at 4.10PM this Thursday 11 February, after the Central Stags and Canterbury Kings Elimination Final that will begin at noon, both games livestreamed on Spark Sport.
Wow what a finish at Eden Park Outer Oval! Great Dream11 @SuperSmashNZ action. The Hearts and Blaze will meet again on Thursday at Eden Park Outer Oval in the Elimination Final #SuperSmashNZ pic.twitter.com/0Z5EF2RQIw— WHITE FERNS (@WHITE_FERNS) February 7, 2021