Big-hitting from Colin de Grandhomme couldn't stop the Auckland Aces going down by 21 runs to a resurgent Canterbury Wizards side at Hagley Oval in their HRV Cup clash yesterday.
Needing victory to stay in contention in the Twenty20 competition, the Wizards recovered strongly from early wobbles to storm to a competitive 201-6. Peter Fulton (48 off 31) and Tom Latham (44 off 31) put on a 91-run fourth-wicket stand that built a sturdy platform through the middle overs. An aggressive Brendon Diamanti (25 off 10) and Andrew Ellis (23 off 15) hit three sixes and four boundaries from the death overs. It was that brutal 45-run partnership in the last minutes of the innings which would cost the Aces the match.
A sluggish start exacerbated the pressure on the Aucklanders before De Grandhomme had spectators sitting up as he climbed into the spinners to pelt seven sixes, his half-century arriving off just 24 deliveries. He rode his luck, too - dropped twice off Ronnie Hira before his luck ran out in the 15th over, caught off Ellis for a blistering 65 off 33.
The remaining order couldn't haul in the required run rate, which remained parked in double figures - the acid now on the Aces to defeat the Northern Knights in home and away games ahead of the Seddon Park finals.
In yesterday's other game, Otago went joint-top with a seven-wicket victory over winless Central Districts in New Plymouth. The Stags had a horror start losing English import Josh Cobb in the first ball of the match before he was quickly followed by fellow Englishman Peter Trego an over later. Kieran Noema-Barnett (52) and Doug Bracewell (35) added some much needed runs in the middle order but Central could reach only 147 for nine in their 20 overs - never enough on the small Pukekura Park ground.
Dutch import Ryan ten Doeschate scored 50, including three sixes, in the relatively easy chase as Otago reached 148 with 2 overs to spare.
The Volts share first place with the Wellington Firebirds on 20 points.