Northern Brave has pulled off a brilliant back end of their campaign to qualify for the Dream11 Super Smash women's Elimination Final — the first time the Northern women have made the national T20 playoffs since the eliminators were introduced for women in 2019/20.
Brave will now be up against the Central Hinds in Friday’s knockout match for the last spot in Sunday’s Grand Final, with the winner of that game proceeding to the Grand Final to play top qualifier Wellington Blaze in Auckland. Not only that, but the Brave has earned the right to host the Elimination match after finishing equal on points but ahead of the Hinds' net run rate.
The Hinds have enjoyed their best Dream11 Super Smash summer in years — having last won the title in their only successful season, 2009/10. They last made the Grand Final in 2015/16, with that summer’s trophy won by the Canterbury Magicians.
The highest the Brave have ever finished is third, in the competition’s inaugural season, 2007/08, long before the days of sudden death playoffs.
Today’s match at a blustery, chilly University of Otago Oval had been a must-win for Northern Brave who had kept themselves alive by storming through the back half of their campaign, after having been bottom of the table before three must-win victories on the bounce.
The competitive Sparks meanwhile had required just a washout today to qualify — but losing means the Brave have bumped them out of the top three, ending their campaign on the spot.
Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu set it up by continuing her rich vein of form in her maiden season of Dream11 Super Smash, powering the Brave to 68/0.
The opener was in cruise control and on the cusp of what would have been her second half ton in the competition when the Sparks broke through — the safe hands of outstanding boundary fielder, former WHITE FERN Felicity Robertson, securing a catch in the deep off English import Linsey Smith to remove Athapaththu on 46.
But she had done her job, blitzing her runs off 37 balls, with seven boundaries and two sixes.
At that very moment, wet weather that had already seen the game interrupted and reduced to 17 overs per side, returned at 68/1 in the 10th over.
The covers came back on, but play would resume again in a DLS game now shortened to 12 overs per side, with Jess Watkin (29 not out) and Caitlin Gurrey (14 not out) going on to take Northern through to 94/1.
Brave finished their 12 at 94/1 and, after the DLS calculator sheet came out, that meant the Sparks would need 110 to win at 9.17 runs per over if there were no further interruptions. The rain returned again at the innings break. Now the target became 87 runs off 54 balls, with five overs in the chase required for a game.
The Sparks were still an outside chance when, needing 70 from 40, they lost their biggest wicket in Suzie Bates, one of the top two runscorers in the league his summer — just behind Blaze star Melie Kerr.
Bates was brilliantly run out for just eight by youngster Eve Wolland, the Sparks now 17/2 after having already lost Bella James to emerging Northern star Marama Downes.
That left Robertson with a big job to do against her former team, with Hayley Jensen in support. Sixty was required off the last 30, but the next event was Jensen stumped off wily spinner Jess Watkin.
When Watkin struck again in the same over to have Robertson caught, the Sparks were in deeper water — and, the five overs required for a result was about to tick over. The Sparks’ dreams continued to unravel from that point, further wickets lost, and the asking rate becoming impossible for them during the final over. Northern Brave won by 22 runs (DLS) with the Sparks ending on 64/6 after the nine-over chase.
Stay tuned here at www.supersmash.co.nz for all the Final details and tickets on sale.