A determined run chase from the Central Stags ended the Auckland Aces' HRV Cup playoff hopes at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park today.
After posting a competitive 181 for six from their 20 overs, Auckland were unable to break the 100-run third wicket partnership of Mathew Sinclair (71 from 52) and Ben Smith (59 from 31) until it was too late, and Central reached the target with three balls to spare.
Central needed 19 runs from the final two overs, but ended up doing it easy, with the big-hitting Sinclair leading the charge with a flurry of late boundaries before getting run out in the final over.
It means Auckland's dream of reaching the top three playoffs is now effectively over, with the Northern Knights and Wellington Firebirds both sitting eight points ahead of them with two games to play.
Bottom of the table Central had no chance of reaching the playoffs, but played like a team with something to prove.
They gave as good as they got throughout the 40 overs, shrugging off injuries to Kruger van Wyk, William Young, and the unavailability of Jacob Oram and Adam Milne, to earn just their second win of the season.
Colin de Grandhomme (55 of 24) and Craig Cachopa (49 of 33) did the damage in the middle order for Auckland as their 69 run partnership for the fifth wicket propelled the innings forward.
De Grandhomme smacked three consecutive sixes in the 11th over before being caught by Marty Kain of the bowling of Kieran Noema-Barnett with four overs left in the innings. Kyle Mills finished things off in impressive style with a big six off the last ball of the innings to push the visitors up over 180.
The Stags' reply got off to a good start with Jamie How and Matthew Sinclair putting on a 46 run opening stanza before How was bowled by Michael Bates for 28.
Sinclair and Smith put on a 100 run partnership for the third wicket before Noema-Barnett came in to hit the winning run.
The Stags finish the season with a home game against Otago on Sunday before completing their season away to Auckland, while the Aces travel away to face Canterbury in Rangiora before finishing the regular season at Eden Park.
L Vincent c Sinclair b Small 25
P Mustard c Noema-Barnett b Small 2
G Hopkins c How b Nethula 18
A Kitchen c How b Lamb 3
C de Grandhomme c Kain b Noema-Barnett 55
Craig Cachopa c Nethula b Lamb 49
D Grobbelaar not out 13
K Mills not out 8
Extras (lb 4, wd 3, nb 1) 8
Total (for 6 wickets, 20.0 overs) 181
Fall: 1-20 (Mustard), 2-39 (Vincent), 3-45 (Kitchen), 4-59 (Hopkins), 5-130 (de Grandhomme), 6-172 (Craig Cachopa)
Bowling: M Kain 4-0-32-0 (2w), K Jarvis 4-0-25-0 (1nb), B Small 2-0-23-2, T Nethula 4-0-38-1, A Lamb 3-0-28-2, K Noema-Barnett 3-0-31-1 (1w).
J How b Bates 28
M Sinclair run out (Bates) 71
J Raval b Grobbelaar 18
B Smith not out 59
K Noema-Barnett not out 1
Extras (lb 0, wd 3, nb 2) 5
Total (for 3 wickets, 19.3 overs) 182
Fall: 1-46 (JM How, 5.2), 2-75 (JA Raval, 9.4), 3-181 (MS Sinclair, 19.2)
Bowling: K Mills 4-0-45-0 (1w, 2nb), M Bates 3.3-0-28-1, M Quinn 4-0-48-0 (2w, D Grobbelaar 4-0-33-1, Bhupinder Singh 4-0-28-0
Central Stags win by 7 wickets