A ballistic T20 career-best knock from big Colin de Grandhomme has supercharged the race for direct qualification to the men's Dream11 Super Smash Grand Final after Northern Brave pushed last year's qualifiers the Central Stags to the brink of elimination, last night.
De Grandhomme's smashing 86 off just 45 balls after having been sent in at the Mount was peppered with four boundaries and five sixes at the big ground and formed part of a 112-run stand with form batsman Joe Carter (32 off 28) that set a new third-wicket record for Northern and gave Brave a defendable total of 176/7.
For the Stags, T20 BLACKCAP Blair Tickner stood out with a haul of 3-20 after snaring a wicket first ball with help from a classy dive from keeper-batsman Dane Cleaver.
But an erratic evening in the field cost Central dearly and allowed de Grandhomme to escalate.
Veteran Ben Smith's T20 career-best 68 off 53 led the way in reply, but the big Stags wickets fell cheaply and they limped home 19 runs short.
The match had been a must-win for the injury-troubled side and, parked in fourth spot and four points adrift of the Wellington Firebirds - who have three matches remaining to the Stags' one - Central's fate now rests in the hands of the Firebirds, with the early leaders having lost their last five games in a row.
Earlier, the women's prelude was yet another heart-pumping finish for the Central Hinds who this time chalked up a thrilling last-over win over the Northern Brave women who had beaten them in similar circumstances in late December in New Plymouth.
Both teams had headed into the match with just one win at the wrong end of the table, but sustained pressure with the ball from WHITE FERN Rosemary Mair, who took 3-12 off her first three overs and finished with 3-22, and a strong finish with the bat under pressure from fellow WHITE FERN Hannah Rowe got the visitors across the line for a four-wicket win with just two balls to spare.
The Hinds had been chasing Brave's 110/7, Brave's opening bat Caitlin Gurrey's aggressive unbeaten 58* off just 50 balls providing more than half the team's runs.
Saturday morning sees the action move to Auckland and Kennards Community Hire Oval where the Auckland Hearts and Aces host the Otago Sparks and Volts from 11.10am.
A win to the Suzie Bates's Sparks will see them join Wellington Blaze in the Finals while it's a must-win for the Hearts, currently sitting equal third on points with defending champions the Canterbury Magicians, who have a game in hand on the tight women's ladder.
With four matches in hand, Auckland's Aces can meanwhile still gallop home to qualify,, despite heading into the upcoming clash with the out of contention Otago Volts in fifth spot on the table.