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Otago Sparks, Volts clinch finals spots

Volts charge into Super Smash finals
Volts v Stags scorecard 

A brilliant unbeaten knock by Hamish Rutherford has propelled the Otago Volts into the Dream11 Super Smash finals with an emphatic nine-wicket win over the Central Stags.

The Volts opener blasted 81* off 54 balls as the hosts cruised to victory at the University of Otago Oval with 15 balls to spare.

With the win, the Volts move into second in the standings ahead of their final round-robin match on Tuesday against the Canterbury KINGS.

Set a modest target of 140 after the Stags won the toss and batted first, Rutherford and Neil Broom wasted no time taking control of the chase. The duo put on 71 for the first wicket in just eight overs.

When Broom was dismissed for 34, Rutherford carried on the momentum and with the help of Dean Foxcroft (22*), ensured the Volts got home with ease.

Earlier, the Volts put together an outstanding all-round bowling effort to restrict the visitors to 139-6.

The spinners proved particularly difficult to get away as the Stags struggled for impetus throughout. Anaru Kitchen took 2-22 and along with Michael Rippon (1-24), contained the batters through the middle stages. 

Dane Cleaver top-scored for the Stags with 42 off 31. After being 70-1 after 10 overs and poised to launch, the innings fell away quickly. Four wickets fell in a five-over spell to leave the stags stalled at 99-5 after 15 overs.

The Volts are guaranteed a place in Friday's Elimination Final. However, they could bypass that game and host the Grand Final instead if the Wellington Firebirds lose to the Auckland ACES on Sunday and the Volts beat the KINGS.

The Stags remain in third place on 18 points, two ahead of the ACES and four points ahead of the KINGS and Knights. The KINGS are the only team with two matches in hand.

Having now played all ten of their round-robin fixtures, the defending champion Stags need other results to go their way to sneak into the finals.

Sparks book spot in Elimination Final
Sparks v Hinds scorecard

The Otago Sparks have clinched the third spot in the women's Dream11 Super Smash finals after prevailing in the must-win encounter against the Central Hinds by seven wickets.

After overcoming an early wobble with the bat the Sparks were able to chase down the Hinds’ modest total of 104-6 with almost three overs to spare at the University of Otago Oval.

The winner of the match was guaranteed to finish in third place with the two teams separated by just half a point on the ladder. Neither side could catch runaway competition leaders the Wellington Blaze, or the Auckland HEARTS who locked up second-place with their victory yesterday.

The Sparks head to Auckland’s Eden Park Outer Oval for the Elimination Final on Thursday. The winner moves onto the Grand Final at the Basin Reserve against the Blaze next weekend.

The Sparks have one more round-robin game before then, against the Canterbury MAGICIANS at Hagley Oval on Tuesday. The Hinds' season has finished with four wins and six losses.

Winning the toss and batting first, the Hinds struggled to build momentum in their innings. Several batters made starts but the Sparks restricted the scoring and got wickets at key times.

Hannah Rowe top-scored with 22 before she was run out, while openers Jess Watkin and Emily Cunningham both made 18.

Hannah Darlington led the way for the Sparks attack with the stellar figures of 3-12 off her four overs, including a maiden.

Emma Black also bowled an important spell, finishing with 2-24 and dismissing Watkin and Natalie Dodd in quick succession in the middle of the innings.

At the break, the hosts would have felt comfortable with the task at hand.

Early in their reply things were much less comfortable though with Suzie Bates, Katey Martin and Hayley Jensen all back in the shed and the chase stumbling at 3-20.

However, opener Millie Cowan (55* off 51) and Amanda-Jade Wellington (37* off 37) put together an excellent unbeaten 86-run partnership to guide the Sparks into the finals.

After a slow start to the season, the Sparks have now won four matches in a row.