Having commendably stifled the Central Districts Hinds for a paltry 104 runs, the Otago Sparks waded through a mind swamp to book a flight to Eden Park outer oval for the eliminator final against the Auckland Hearts on Thursday next week.

It wasn't about an acrobatic catch, a scorching or deceptive ball or a jaw-dropping run out after the Sparks beat the Hinds by seven wickets during the playoff-defining Super Smash Twenty20 match at the University of Otago Oval in Dunedin on Saturday.

No, it was something as mundane as which two Otago batswomen could forge a prosaic partnership to eclipse a target that demanded picking up crumbs from a slow wicket.

Just as twenty20 doesn't mean throwing your bat at the ball, it was a timely reminder for teams that chasing a meagre total doesn't mean it's always a given.

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Smiles don't disguise complacency when what should be a dawdle in the park can quickly turn into a cross-country run, not that there's anything wrong with taking the longer route sometimes.

Opener Millie Cowan, 55 not out from 51 balls, and Australian import Amanda-Jade Wellington, at No 5, with a run-a-ball 37, saw the Sparks through to 106/3 with 17 balls to spare.

Deservedly, they had shared the game changer award.

It was a slick bowling and fielding performance from the hosts that provided the platform for the victory but that shouldn't detract from how that had spurred CD to adopt a never-say-die attitude.

White Fern Hannah Rowe would have reflected on a caught-and-bowled opportunity in the first ball of her first over (the third of the innings) when Cowan was on two runs and Otago a wicket down with nine runs on the board.

Amanda-Jade Wellington (left) congratulates opening batsman Millie Cowan after the game-changing pair guided the Otago Sparks to victory in Dunedin today. Photo / Photosport
Amanda-Jade Wellington (left) congratulates opening batsman Millie Cowan after the game-changing pair guided the Otago Sparks to victory in Dunedin today. Photo / Photosport

Yes, TV commentators tend to chuck in cushions — such as "difficult chances", the swirling northerlies and the "you don't often see that" from so-and-so — but the reality is the good, old cliche of catches win matches tends to ring true.

Regrettably, the Hinds had left their willows in their coffins at the changing sheds.

"We didn't have the runs on the board but we still gave it a good fight," said Watkin. "I'm really proud of the way the girls have gone about it this season ... so I think all the hard work from the off season has paid off."

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CD opener Emily Cunningham had shown incremental growth in her mindset with 18 from 22 balls before chasing a Hannah Darlington bouncer only to shank it to Emma Black at gully.

Spinner Wellington missed a caught-and-bowled opportunity from opener Jess Watkin in the penultimate ball of the following over.

But Black, who had started superbly despite two fuller deliveries going for a boundary and six, had enticed co-skipper Watkin to hole out to Suzie Bates at long on for 18 runs with her in swingers.

Unfortunately Natalie Dodd, at first drop, went cheaply for 11 runs in trying to consolidate the Hinds' innings, courtesy of a brilliant one-handed diving catch from Bates after charging to mid-on to an Eden Carson delivery.

No 4 Anlo van Deventer survived a run-out scare in the 11th over from Otago wicketkeeper Katey Martin but, much to the relief of CD coach Jamie Watkins, Cowan had conceded a boundary with the ball flicking her toe as she slid into the rope.

However, Van Deventer didn't last long, pulling Darlington but only to lob it down the throat of Hayley Jensen at deep backward of square for 15 runs.

No 5 Rowe also survived a run-out by a click of the slow-motion replay in ignoring a schoolgirl lapse of planting her bat over the line rather than sliding in a lacklustre run between the wickets with No 6 Rosemary Mair in the 16th over.

Otago Sparks player Hayley Jensen (left) congratulates Suzie Bates after her TV-replaying variety, one-handed catch to dismiss a CD batswoman in Dunedin today. Photo / Photosport
Otago Sparks player Hayley Jensen (left) congratulates Suzie Bates after her TV-replaying variety, one-handed catch to dismiss a CD batswoman in Dunedin today. Photo / Photosport

Cowan missed a Mair lob and then, her confidence dented, let a ball drop shy at deep midwicket. Black also dropped Mair at silly mid off to take the sheen off schoolgirl Carson's figures.

Rowe top scored with 22 runs from 23 balls but you seldom find quality products in the trolley after shopping at a bargain-basement supermarket and CD's receipt endorsed that.

Darlington was exceptional in spear heading the bowling attack to finish with 3-12, including a maiden, but the collective were outstanding in keeping the ceiling on a six-and-under economy rate on the Hinds.

CD started superbly, claiming the scalps of Bates and captain Martin for six and two runs, respectively, after the hosts made hard work of chasing down a paltry total.

Mair, Rowe and Watkin were thrifty but some classic fielding, especially from Melissa Hansen, had put the pressure on the Otago batswomen.

It started looking like a case of whether the Sparks wanted fries with their order at the "drive thru" when Jensen, at first drop, coughed up a four-ball duck to Watkin before Wellington arrived to remind Cowan that even savagely discounted fast-food comes at a price so it would pay to revert to a smarter diet.

Watkin had employed seven bowlers but, if there was criticism, she had rotated too late, thus enabling the Otago batsmen to become familiar to her, Rowe and Mair.

The co-skipper was the only wicket taker, claiming 2-16, including a maiden, for the 50-over defending champions who added value to a win-less T20 campaign last season.

"When we look at last year and this year, we've come a long way but we still haven't played our best cricket so we're looking to our cricket next season already in the T20 campaign," said Watkin.

The junior development officer at Cricket Whanganui said they still had unfinished business in the limited-overs competition to refine their skills.

"It's the end of the T20 season but we still have a long way to go."

CD Hinds bowler Jess Watkin (no cap) celebrates her caught-and-bowled scalp of Hayley Jansen but the co-skipper was perhaps guilty of not rotating her other bowlers earlier. Photo / Photosport
CD Hinds bowler Jess Watkin (no cap) celebrates her caught-and-bowled scalp of Hayley Jansen but the co-skipper was perhaps guilty of not rotating her other bowlers earlier. Photo / Photosport

Despite all the heroics, Otago showed they had the measure of CD in the T20 format and their win in Napier was no fluke.

The Sparks have given the Hearts a run for their money in the fielding department, showing against CD that other facets of play can influence the outcome of a game even if the total looks anaemic.

However, to beat Auckland Martin and her teammates will need to iron out the basics — such as running between wickets, sliding of bats and calling when fielding to avoid horrible collisions — to earn the right to do the unthinkable against the unbeaten Wellington Blaze.

Ominously from the Blaze perspective, there were enough signs that established batsmen can be found out if they have a rush of blood to the head. Fielding remains their Achilles heel when juxtaposed with the Sparks and Hearts.