Otago locked up a home final in the HRV Cup after beating second-placed Wellington and seeing third-placed Northern Districts go down to Canterbury yesterday. The results give the Volts an unassailable eight-point lead at the top of the table, with next Sunday's final now set for Dunedin's University Oval.
Who will meet the Volts in the showpiece remains to be seen. The second and third placed sides after 10 rounds will play off for a date with Otago, and there are still four teams who can finish in those positions.
Wellington and Northern Districts will meet to decide second place in their final round robin game, while Canterbury or Auckland could sneak into third if they win their final two games.
Regardless of the eventual make-up, Otago will be firm favourites to win the competition and qualify for the T20 Champions League. After beating defeated by ND in their opening game, the Volts have run off seven straight wins to clinch top spot. Their fine form continued yesterday with a 12-run victory set up by an impressive knock by captain Derek de Boorder, who came in at No 3 to blast 67 from 44 balls. Despite not hitting a single six, de Boorder recorded his maiden half century in T20 cricket and led his side to a first innings total of 170-6.
In reply, James Fuller got Otago off to an ideal start when he bowled out the dangerous Jesse Ryder for just six in the third over. Bangaldeshi opener Tamim Iqbal threatened to get away, but Nick Baird snatched his wicket for 41 to reduce the home side to 65-3 after 12 overs.
Wellington were always behind in the asking rate and, despite some hope being offered by Grant Elliott's 36 from 18 balls, the 23 runs needed from the final over proved too tough a task.
In Hamilton, Canterbury's total of 184-8 was more than they may have expected after the initial stages, with Brent Arnel dismissing both openers to reduce the Wizards to 37-2 in the fifth over.
With Canterbury on 79-4 at the halfway stage, ND would have fancied their chances of restricting their opponents to a sub-standard total. But the partnership between Tom Latham and Brendon Diamanti swung the match and saw the visitors pile on more than 100 runs from the final 10 overs.
The pair put on 70 for the fifth wicket with Latham especially aggressive, eventually falling one short of his highest score by making 52 from 29 balls.
Arnel's 4-22 made him the pick of the bowlers while Daryl Tuffey, playing his first match for the Knights after five years in Auckland, chipped in with a wicket despite looking a short of a gallop.
In reply, regular wickets hampered the home side's chase, with their biggest partnership of the match a 37-run stand for the ninth wicket. Some late hitting from tailenders Jono Boult and Anurag Verma pulled ND close before in the final overs, but they eventually fell eight runs short.