Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Cricket: Auckland continue their dominance

Auckland's Martin Guptill smashed an undefeated 68. Photo / Getty Images
Auckland's Martin Guptill smashed an undefeated 68. Photo / Getty Images

With one round to play in the national domestic T20 competition, the finalists have been confirmed and Auckland will host Canterbury next Sunday in the HRV Cup final.

Runaway leaders Auckland were destined to be part of the showpiece game, but confirmed they would have home-ground advantage when the defending champions made light work of Otago at the University Oval in Dunedin today.

Third-placed Northern Districts hoped Wellington could pull off an upset against Canterbury to give their outside chances of making the final a boost, but the Cantabrians had no trouble accounting for the men from the capital and dealt them their sixth loss of the campaign.

In Dunedin, Otago won the toss and elected to bat and looked on track for a monster-sized total as their top three of Brendon McCullum (35), Hamish Rutherford (24) and Craig Cumming (44) got them off to a brisk start.

But, when Cumming departed in the 16th over the wind was taken from their sails and they lurched from 120-3 to 150-8 from their 20 overs.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Ronnie Hira was the pick of the bowlers with 1-19 from four overs as he continued his consistent summer with the ball.

The small surroundings of the University Oval were never going to be enough to stop a rampant Martin Guptill who smashed an undefeated 68 to lead Auckland to a eight-wicket victory with 14 balls to spare.

Guptill's 47-ball knock took his aggregate for the HRV Cup to 416 runs from eight innings at the phenomenal average of 83.2.

The New Zealand opener was well supported by import Azhar Mahmood who cracked 51, while Lou Vincent also chipped in with 31 at the top of the innings.

In a quirk of the draw, Auckland and Canterbury meet in Auckland on Tuesday in the final round of the competition, which will serve as an intriguing dummy run for the final.

Canterbury ensured they were in top nick for this week as their impressive top four powered them to a huge total of 193-3 from their 20 overs against Wellington at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

Rob Nicol (48), George Worker (55 not out), Peter Fulton (38) and Dean Brownlie (24) hammered the Wellington bowlers to all corners of the ground and only Jeetan Patel, who conceded 18 runs from his four overs, was spared.

Wellington, who have only won two from nine in the HRV Cup this summer, were an outsiders' chance at best and when James Franklin departed for 28 in the 13th over it triggered a huge collapse from the visitors who lost their last seven wickets for 15 runs.

Skipper Grant Elliot top-scored with 51 from 32 balls and the Firebirds meet Central Districts in New Plymouth on Wednesday in a bid to avoid the wooden spoon.

Northern host Otago at Seddon Park in Hamilton to complete the round-robin of the competition on Thursday, although the game will only have pride on the line.

- APNZ

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