Perennial contender Wellington Blaze is assured of a berth in the women’s Grand Final as the top qualifier, but the big question in which two teams will qualify for the 2v3 Elimination Final - the winner of which will progress to play the Blaze for the title on Sunday week?
This summer’s surprise package the Central Hinds are currently in the box seat to host that Elimination Final, should they hold their current position at second on the ladder — but nothing is certain as first they need to beat the Otago Sparks in their last round, in Dunedin on Friday.
The Sparks, in third spot, trail the Hinds by six points. A win is worth four points — but also, Suzie Bates’s southerners have one more game in hand and can therefore finish ahead of the Hinds and snare the Elimination Final hosting rights if they can win twice.
The Canterbury Magicians also have two games still to play, and can potentially finish level on points with the Sparks — who will be well aware that the Cantabrians (0.25) currently have a higher net run rate (Sparks with -0.29).
If teams finish level on points, net run rate is the ranking decider, so the Sparks need to up their game.
After the Hinds clash in Dunedin on Friday, the Sparks play Northern Brave in the final regular season matchday of the league on Tuesday next week, both big games at their home ground of University of Otago Oval.
Brave sits at the bottom of the table, but is also the only team with three games in hand.
A dream run through the last week of the regular season would see the Brave rocket up the table to 22 points — and they’ll need to start by taking down defending champions the Magicians in Hamilton this afternoon.
The Auckland Hearts will meanwhile be ruing their negative net run rate. They sorely needed a home win on Monday to keep them in the hunt, the Hinds instead having clinched a key victory at Eden Park.
The Hinds have lost just two of their seven games (with two washouts also in their nine rounds to date) — a huge improvement on previous seasons when Central have been regularly at the wrong end of the table.
The team has only once won the national T20 title — in 2010 in Napier, when WHITE FERNS legends Aimee Watkins (née Mason), Sara McGlashan and Rachel Priest were leading the way. Could this summer be a droughtbreaker?
Stay tuned every game this week!
AT A GLANCE: What are the MAXIMUM possible points each team could achieve ahead of today's matches?
• Four points per win, two points for a tie or washout
Wellington Blaze: 32 (games still to play: 1) Q
Central Hinds 26 (games still to play: 1)
Otago Sparks 24 (games still to play: 2)
Northern Brave 22 (games still to play: 3)
Canterbury Magicians 20 (games still to play: 2)
Auckland Hearts 16 (games still to play: 1)
All images: PHOTOSPORT