Cricket: Mahmood proves his worth as Aces advance

Azhar Mahmood. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Azhar Mahmood. Photo / Brett Phibbs

You pay your imports to deliver in the hustle and bustle of Twenty20 cricket and Auckland's Ahzar Mahmood certainly delivered this morning as he piloted the Aces into the main draw of next week's Champions League tournament.

Needing a victory to be sure of qualification, Auckland won the toss and put English side Hampshire in to bat at Centurion in Pretoria, and the 37-year-old Mahmood claimed career-best figures of 5-24 as Hampshire managed only 121-8 from their 20 overs.

Only opener Michael Carberry provided much work for the scorers as he made 65, while Auckland spinner Ronnie Hira helped out Mahmood with 2-25 from four overs.

Not content with starring with the ball, Mahmood then belted 55 from 31 balls, including four sixes, as the Aces breezed to an eight-wicket victory with 5.3 overs to spare.

Auckland also recorded a solid win over Pakistani outfit Sialkot yesterday in Pool A of the qualifying tournament and will go through to the big dance in decent form.

Aces' skipper Gareth Hopkins said in the post-match presentation he was pleased to win the toss.

"The boys adjusted well to the wicket. It was a good toss to win. It was a little bit sticky up front, and flattened out later. Mahmood is a quality attack. It's huge for us. We were here last year, lost two off the last ball, that really hurt. Playing the game last night up front helped. There was calmness, and we've carried the momentum.''

The Aces will be in Pool A of the cash-rich Champions League alongside the Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, Perth Scorchers and the Titans, from South Africa.

Their first match is against Kolkata at Newlands in Cape Town on Monday night.

- APNZ

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