The dodgy Duckworth-Lewis Method kept rearing its head, the electronic Wasp monitoring the scoreboard was definitely in the blue corner for the best part of the game and the threat of northeasterly-whipped rain was ever present at Eden Park, Auckland, yesterday.

But someone forgot to tell the Central Districts Stags as they defied gargantuan odds to end the Auckland Aces' Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 campaign with a 39-run victory at the outer oval.

Frankly, even the most ardent of CD fans would have rolled their eyes because the ground was compact and the wicket non-complaint, for the want of a better word, in what appeared to be an anaemic total of 163-6 from the Stags in their allotted 20 overs after captain William Young lost the toss and was asked to pad up.

But the CD bowlers never lost faith despite some of their batsmen forgetting their willows in the changing room as they stunned the loyal army of Auckland supporters who had braved the elements.

Advertisement

It has been a fairy tale run for the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags who were sitting fifth on the six-team table before wins on the trot got them into third-qualifying position to roll the dice against second-placed Auckland.

The perfect ending for the Stags' fairy tale will be to lift the crown against top qualifiers the Northern Districts Knights at Seddon Park, Hamilton, on Saturday but for now the penultimate chapter needs to be documented in recounting how they emulated their feat of making the T20 final in consecutive summers.

It pays to know history didn't favour CD either yesterday — the teams who batted second at the venue had won all five games this summer.

It didn't help that the Wasp was in the Aces' corner — an 84 per cent chance of winning after the Stags' dig.

"It was brilliant, wasn't it?" said CD spinner Ajaz Patel who claimed 3-26 off four overs.
It sure was. First-change bowler and T20 highest wicket taker Blair Tickner endorsed that with the most frugal 2-14 at 3.5 runs an over.

That, of course, was after openers Seth Rance (3-22) and Ben Wheeler (1-27) softened up the Aces batsmen.

"Everyone played their part on the field," said Patel, emphasising again it was always about taking wickets rather than creating pressure with dot balls.

For the record, wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver, who top scored with 54 runs from 33 balls, snaffled four catches and Tom Bruce, who didn't go on from 28 runs off 13 balls, took two catches in the outfield.

Patel said the secret was in sticking to their game plan despite the claustrophobic outfield and a temperamental wicket.

The bowlers adapted smartly to a strip that offered some bounce and profited by shortening their deliveries a shade to negate the batsmen's urge to drive down in search of boundaries.

"I think we communicated that well before we got out there," he said, aware that he and Bevan Small were going to be targeted after the batsmen struggled against seamers.

"It's a good opportunity, if you look at it in that way, to pick up wickets when they try to come at you so you've just got to have the right mindset."

No doubt, they were studious in watching Auckland skipper Craig Cachopa go about his business — using two spinners in tandem and then injecting medium pacers intermittently for good measure.

"They bowled quite well because they know what the surface is like and what areas needed to be bowled to."

Patel said he also had a fair idea of what he wanted before the game and was relieved that plan prevailed.

The Stags, mindful of the disappointment of losing to the Wellington Firebirds in the T20 final last summer in New Plymouth, had worked incredibly hard this season to book another shot at glory.

"You know, we've had a lot of fun along the way so we're really excited and looking forward to Saturday."

The frightful reality for any opposition is the realisation that should the sun and moon align with the stars for CD then the cricketing gods can only help the rivals.

"If you look at our batting lineup and our bowling lineup, if everyone turns up on any day it's going to be pretty tough for the opposing team."

Openers George Worker and Jesse Ryder departed cheaply yesterday with a wired-up Worker revealing the pair had struggled to pick the pace of balls just short of a good length.

"The likes of Georgie and Jesse really impose themselves on oppositions and then you have Youngy who is already the leading run scorer in the competition," he said of Young who scored 23 runs. Throw in Cleaver, Joshua Clarkson and Wheeler and you get the picture.

Thoughts of rain and the DL Method, Patel said, weren't entertained. The mission was simply to see through the 20 overs each way to ensure they were always going to be the architects of their own success.