Regina Lili'i holds a spectacular catch | Images: PHOTOSPORT

Hold the phone! Hearts stay on course

The Auckland Hearts have pulled it together to keep their Grand Final hopes alive with an electric win over the Otago Sparks.

Qualified but sitting in the least sexy third spot on the table, the Aucklanders grabbed four crucial points with their 27-run victory over the languishing southerners.

It ensured they stayed in touch with the other two top teams - equal on points again now with the Canterbury Magicians, and just two points behind Blaze, all three with a game to go where the four points at stake will determine who gains direct entry into the Grand Final.

Nailbiter? You bet!

But it wasn't a nailbiter at Outer Oval where the Hearts capped a strong day for Auckland Cricket, rolling the Sparks for just 96.

The visitors were chasing 123 and would have fancied their chances of a rare win after dismissing the strong Hearts line-up with almost two overs in hand.

From 88/4, the lower order had collapsed with Emma Black striking twice in the 14th as she came on for her second spell, having earlier got the big wicket of WHITE FERN Lauren Down in the second over of the afternoon.

Black would finish with an outstanding 4-14 off her 3.4 overs, her career best.

Then Sophie Oldershaw grabbed two in three balls and the wickets were falling over like skittles as the Sparks wrested back control of the innings.

Fortunately for Hearts supporters, Anna Peterson had already top-scored with a quick 31 up top, while Katie Perkins in her 150th T20 match and Holly Huddleston both got starts. It was enough to give them something to defend.

And defend it they would, showing just why they are regarded as one of the best fielding sides in the competition.

Holly Huddleston struck early to put a dampener on Polly Inglis's 50 cap match and it was the usual suspect, captain Katey Martin, tasked with trying to dig her team out of a hole.

Martin top-scored with a run-a-ball 44, but she had little support as the Hearts ran through the rest of the line-up, dismissing them in the last over.

Peterson had capped her good day with 3-23 while Huddleston and young Fran Jonas each picked up a brace as the Hearts kept themselves in the frame for top spot.

They will now host the Blaze on Sunday in what could be a top of the table clash, while the out of contention Sparks lick their wounds ahead of their final game at home against Northern Spirit on Waitangi Day Saturday.

Auckland Hearts beat Otago Sparks by 27 runs