Jesse Ryder continued his blaze of Twenty/20 form and again showed what the New Zealand team is missing during his self-imposed exile when he smacked 60 runs off 37 balls last night in Wellington's 10-run HRV Cup win over Wellington at Eden Park.
He received a life early, when Andre Adams spilled a difficult chance from Ryder's first ball, but was otherwise imperious until he was bowled by Matt Quinn when walking across his stumps.
He was a mixture of raw aggression and deft touches as he illustrated his full range of shots and took 20 off one Kyle Mills over.
It helped Wellington set a useful score of 184 for six off their 20 overs.
They might have imagined something above 200 as Ryder, Michael Papps (38 from 21 balls) and Luke Ronchi (43 from 27) were rollicking along, but the loss of four quick wickets put the brakes on.
They collected only 29 off their final five overs as Auckland worked their way back into the game.
Adams played a big hand in that, finishing with four for 25 from his four overs.
Auckland's chase got off to the worst possible start when Lou Vincent was run out he tried to sneak a single off the first ball of the innings.
English import Phil Mustard and Gareth Hopkins then struggled to build momentum against tight bowling from Mark Houghton, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Dane Hutchinson.
The required run rate climbed steeply - they needed 127 off the last 10 overs - until Mustard, who had looked completely out of sorts, sparked into action with some powerful hitting and was left stranded on 97 not out off 66 balls.
He found good support from Craig Cachopa (24 off 19), but the target always seemed beyond them.
The result put Wellington with Northern Districts on top of the table, although ND have a game in hand.