Magic bowling and the Sparks fizzle out

Sarah Asmussen picked the perfect moment to become the first woman ever to take five-wicket T20 bag for the Canterbury Magicians - putting the heat on the Otago Sparks in their 2022/23 sudden death eliminator.

The women’s Dream11 Super Smash knockout saw Magicians captain Amy Satterthwaite win the toss in a game that also saw the leftie equal Frankie Mackay's Canterbury Magicians T20 caps record with her 104th appearance - while 18-year-old NZU19 rep Abigail Hotton made her Magicians debut in the big match.

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Sending the Otago Sparks in, Satterthwaite opened the bowling herself, and was soon celebrating an early runout off just her fourth delivery, as Liv Gain departed early.

The showery weather quickly returned, alas - weather that had several times shortened the men’s knockout earlier in the afternoon; pausing the Sparks' first innings at 6/1 after the first two overs.

The shower was a brief annoyance, but saw the match clipped to 19 overs, and disruptive for the batters.

Polly Inglis was fortunate to survive a sitter of a dropped catch on 3*, but dangerous Bella James had to go the very next over when she was trapped early by Gabby Sullivan.

That brought proven match-winner Kate Ebrahim to the middle at 17/2 in the fourth, but a heavier shower would soon arrive in a staccato start to the Elimination Final.

After the lengthiest disruption of the day yet, the match was reduced to 13 overs per side, with debutante spinner Hotton coming on after the resumption.

Anchor Inglis and powerhouse Ebrahim got the Sparks 50 on the board in the eighth over, their growing partnership providing a potential base from which to attack.

But then it all went south, and in a hurry.

Ebrahim had survived a runout scare off a Magicians misfield, and luck had seemed to be going the hosts’ way - until a quick double strike in the space of four balls from Sarah Asmussen removed both the set pair at 56/4. Boom.

Next over, Sullivan quickly chimed in to remove import Linsey Smith, caught by Satterthwaite at 58/5 in the 10th.

These were effectively the death overs, and Sullivan was tight, conceding only a streaky edge as the boundaries dried up for the Sparks.

She finished with 1-15 off her three overs, handing the baton to Hotton who likewise conceded just one boundary amid a tight squeeze for the Sparks, the back end of the innings riddled with dot balls.

Satterthwaite bowled the penultimate 12th over, and with it bowled Caitlin Blakely cheaply, before Asmussen came on for the last with the Sparks' momentum stalling at 79/6.

Asmussen drew a top edge from Kirstie Gordon: 81/7, then struck again to put herself on a hat-trick with Emma Black departing first ball.

Sophie Oldershaw averted the hat-trick, but holed out the very next ball to give a thrilled Asmussen a special bag in a crunch match.

It was not only Asmussen's maiden five-for and T20 career best (3/16 having been her previous PB), with 5/17 off her three overs in the 13-over game, but it was the first time ever that a Canterbury Magician had taken a T20 bag.

The Sparks made the perfect start to defending their 81/9, Black getting the form opener Kate Anderson caught behind off the very first ball of the innings. Inglis was on fire with the gloves, Satterthwaite joining Laura Hughes knowing they needed to just keep calm and carry on.

It was a nervy start for the Magicians, Black and Smith showing that they could dot down and build pressure with the best of them. Satterthwaite survived a huge runout scare, testament to the tightrope tension out there as the Magicians faced a required rate sneaking above RPO 7.

Hughes (28 off 17) eased the tension by pumping Black for a six, then helped herself to a streaky edge to third for good measure. She carried on applying some pressure to haul the required rate back down to run a ball in the sixth over.

Biding her time patiently, Satterthwaite survived a difficult dropped catch on 14, and an appeal the very next ball to frustrate Gordon, before Ebrahim came on to try to turn the match back in the Sparks' favour.

It took her just three balls to break the stand, Hughes popping up a catch on 28 off 17, at 44/2 in the seventh.

The wicket brought NZ U19 captain Izzy Sharp to the middle, but her stay was relatively short as the Sparks continued to dot down.

The Magicians entered the final three overs needing 22 from 18, Nat Cox with Satterthwaite as Molly Loe took the ball. Loe conceded nine as Satterthwaite swooped for a cruncial boundary off the last delivery, reducing the equation to 13 from 12.

The business-like Cox found the cover boundary early in the next, the pendulum swinging right back to the red and black camp. Six was all that stood between them a Grand Final at home, now.

The Sparks pushed it to the last over, the Magicians needing just a further four off Black. Cox immediately turned the strike over to Satterthwaite (30* off 32) in her special match, who returned the favour before Cox brought home the seven-wicket victory with three balls to spare.

The Sparks had been the beaten finalists a year earlier, but this time around it would be a rematch of the thrilling 2020/21 Grand Final between the Wellington Blaze and Magicians for the 2022/23 title.

Said Asmussen, "We just wanted to get Amy into another Final", hinting that Satterthwaite was headed for an emotional day this Saturday.

In that respect, it was job, done.