Images : PHOTOSPORT

Sparks back on top!

After another smashing performance from Suzie Bates and Eden Carson, the Otago Sparks are now just inches away from qualifying for the Finals - while it's Hearts trouble for Auckland after a bruising loss in Queenstown.

A day after their first loss of the campaign - after five straight wins, the Sparks bounced back big-time thanks to a smashing unbeaten innings of 89* off just 61 rocks from star captain Bates and then another impressive team effort with the ball.

Bates had won the toss and batted and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to paste 10 boundaries around the ground in front of The Remarkables on a stunning Central Otago day.

The Sparks lost just two wickets against the good Auckland Hearts attack, including a runout at the death; with Bates and Katey Martin powering up with a 93-run stand for the second wicket.

While Martin was eventually run out on 40, Bates's half ton saw her draw level with Martin in the stats stakes with both now sitting on a record 17 T20 half centuries for the side.

The total of 153/2 proved too high a mountain to climb for the Hearts as their stuttery campaign continued.

Coming off a shock loss to the Central Hinds, they would wear their third loss on the bounce as Eden Carson once again spun her bowling magic for the Sparks.

The Hearts were in trouble early after Molly Loe knocked off both opening batters early in the chase at 12/2, and then Bella Armstrong was forced to retire hurt with a quad injury at the halfway mark with the Hearts lagging at 54/2.

Armstrong had only just survived a missed stumping as Holly Huddleston took her place in the middle with Katie Perkins having got a healthy run-a-ball start.

But just a few balls later, Perkins would be gone for 29 and then Emma Black put herself on a hat-trick next ball with Arlene Kelly served up a golden duck.

Huddleston and Izzy Gaze tried to keep the score ticking over from 58/4, but when spinner Carson came back into the attack, it all went south.

Gaze was gone, the Caitlin Blakely got Huddleston in the 18th. The Sparks were on top as Carson (4-12) took three more wickets in the 19th to finish the job with an over to spare for a 45-run win, yet again demonstrating how dangerous she can be in this format.

SCORES