Cricket: Aces in with a chance after dealing to Knights

Defending champions Auckland still have a slim chance of progressing to the playoffs of the HRV Cup after upsetting Northern Districts at Mount Maunganui yesterday.

The Aces needed to beat table-topping ND to have any hope of making it three titles in a row, and they did just that on the back of a solid performance with the bat and a suffocating effort with the ball.

Auckland's total of 180-5 was solid if unspectacular, but a couple of early wickets gave the curiously conservative Knights no chance.

Auckland will still need to win their final three games, but they all come against competition easy-beats Canterbury and Central Districts.

If they take care of business they will likely finish in a tie for third place with either ND or Wellington, with the final playoff place decided by run rate. Otago now lead the standings after smashing the Stags in Dunedin, and they are in the box seat to secure a direct birth into the final.

Auckland's chances of joining them were boosted immeasurably by yesterday's triumph.

With the dangerous Lou Vincent dismissed for 10, ND would have fancied their chances of restricting the visitors at Blake Park. But captain Gareth Hopkins steadied the ship with a knock of 57 before Colin de Grandhomme gave his side they boost they needed with an unbeaten 66 from just 30 balls.

The dismissals of Anton Devcich and James Marshall appeared to spook the Knights in their chase, reducing them to 28-2 in the fifth over.

Auckland's bowling attack, led by Michael Bates' 3-19 from four overs, eventually proved too good as ND finished 28 runs short despite having four wickets in hand.

At University Oval, an unbeaten 59 off 32 balls by Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate helped Otago to a resounding 93-run win as they moved clear at the top of the table.

Otago openers Hamish Rutherford (34) and Neil Broom (25) set the foundation with a 53-run stand, before ten Doeschate formed a destructive 95-run partnership with Nathan McCullum, who struck 50 off 27 deliveries.

After posting an imposing 194-4, the Volts restricted CD to 101 all out in 17 overs.

Elsewhere, Jesse Ryder was upstaged by opening partner Tamim Iqbal as Wellington romped to a 57-run win over Canterbury in Rangiora.

The Bangladeshi opener and Ryder shared a 71-run stand for the first wicket before Iqbal kicked on to make 74 from 47 and help Wellington to a formidable 190-2.

Canterbury's Rob Nicol was dismissed at the end of the second over, the first victim of debutant Ili Tugaga. The 22-year-old seamer went on to take 4-18.

By the time Tugaga had torn through the top order, Canterbury were left on 41-4 and eventually stumbled to 133 all out.

- The Aucklander

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