Never mind the orthodox shots, the Central Districts Stags pulled out every trick in the unorthodox bag to pull off a sensational victory in Auckland tonight.
The Auckland Aces desperately needed a joker in their batting order but, while English professional import Daniel Bell-Drummond gave some laughs with two debatable full-toss, no-ball rulings via TV replays, the hosts couldn't find one in their pack at Eden Park Outer Oval in the final eliminator match of the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 campaign.
The Heinrich Malan-coached Stags pulled off an emphatic 44-run victory to book a grand final date with competition leaders and defending champions Northern Districts Knights at Seddon Park, Hamilton, in another televised affair from 4pm on Sunday.
The Stags set the tone with Black Caps-in-waiting opener William Young and wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver who had pulled out the pyrotechnics to help post 219/4 from their allotted 20 overs.
The onslaught was so severe that the Aces, who had inflicted an eight-wicket hiding on CD in the previous round in the quest for a home-ground advantage, started making basic fielding errors under pressure off a driveway of a pitch.
Remarkably the Stags gave the Aucklanders a king hit without the services of pivotal bowler Blair Tickner, who had sprained his ankle on Wednesday while warming up during a mini-soccer match at training in Napier, and allrounder Joshua Clarkson who had a groin injury bowling in the nets.
However, the whisper is Tickner and Clarkson will be in Hamilton on Sunday morning, quietly confident of passing the fitness test.
Where the CD batsmen had teased the field for singles and doubles when not finding the boundary, the Aces seemed gung ho about their run chase, banking on some big slogs that didn't eventuate today.
Young scored 83 runs 54 deliveries, including four boundaries and three sixes, after first-ball opener George Worker and Dean Foxall, at first drop, came and went for loose change.
But it was No 5 Cleaver who amped up the innings with an unbeaten 77 runs from 37 balls, including four boundaries and five lusty sixes.
The fourth-wicket partnership brought up 100 runs in 51 balls in a shade over than half an hour before taking CD to the 200-run mark in 18 overs on a wicket the Tom Bruce-skippered visitors suspected was a "little tacky" at the start.
The reverse sweep, slog and slog sweep, upper cut, switch hit, scoop/ramp and even the what-the-heck-was-that shots were executed (Was any other type of shot missed?).
"Obviously for Youngy and Dane to put on 140 in a twenty20 is superb anytime you do it in a semifinal," said Bruce who contributed 35 runs from 19 balls, including five boundaries and a six.
When the riot came to a halt — somewhat with an anticlimax for the CD fans in the magnificent last over from Auckland seamer Mitchell McClenaghan — the expectations were high on the Stags bowlers quelling any counterattacks from the Auckland batsmen.
Only McClenaghan, who finished with 2-33, was below the 10-run mark with fellow opener Matt Quinn (1-39).
Conversely the CD bowling attack was outstanding with five of them under the 10-over mark despite Patel not allowed to make his last delivery.
"It's nice to have five international bowlers at my disposal and they all adapted to the conditions very well and executed their plans very well," said Bruce, reiterating their total was very bowling attack's dream no matter what the size of a ground.
The Auckland innings started promisingly when the Aces took a shine to new-ball seamer Ben Wheeler who went for 25 runs from his first two-over spell.
Fellow opener and swing merchant Seth Rance finished his two overs tidily after a loose start to stay below the 10 runs an over mark.
Bruce made a timely switch in introducing fast bowler Adam Milne to take the prized scalp of Black Caps opener Colin Munro for 33 runs from 18 balls, albeit from a deceptively slower delivery that saw him mistime the ball down the throat of the captain.
Black Caps seamer Doug Bracewell went for 17 runs off his first over, prompting Bruce to bring back Wheeler at the cost of 10 runs.
However, New Zealand test spinner Ajaz Patel was outstanding with six runs off his first over and would have kept the lid on the second one but took the pressure off the batsmen when he went for a six off the last ball.
Bracewell also released the pressure valve when he started his second over frugally before a fifth-ball six undid the hard work.
With 54 balls remaining and 116 runs required, Patel's left arm struck another blow when he trapped Glenn Phillips plumb leg before wicket for 30 runs after facing 25 deliveries, frustratingly trying to play a reverse sweep to leave the hosts at 104/2.
The free hit off a Patel's ball — referred to TV for a replay to adjudge an above-waist ball to Bell-Drummond — perhaps calls for a projected dip in delivery, akin to an lbw decision, to see if it would have remained above waist considering the batsman had lunged forward almost a stride out of his crease and reached for the ball with his bat just beyond his leading toe.
The spinner showed his class to concede only a leg bye from the ensuing free hit although the comparison of totals at the 14-over mark showed only a three-run advantage to CD and the Wasp giving the hosts a 10 per cent chance of victory.
"The fact is Jazzy missed the block hole twice so we respect the umpires' decisions," Bruce said, happy that Noema-Barnett was there to bowl the free hit without sacrificing a fulltime bowler.
Like good wine, Bracewell also showed his worth for the ICC World Cup as he conceded a meagre five runs in the third over.
Milne also tightened the screws as the asking rate crept up to the 15-run mark despite the odd six and no ball from fellow bowlers although Foxcroft's boundary fielding must have lifted CD.
Patel sent Mark Chapman, who never really lived up to his billing, packing for 10 runs after some brilliant glove work from Cleaver behind the stumps.
At 150/3, Young fumbled Bell-Drummond for a six over the rope but umpire Chris Brown again went up to the TV to deem Patel's ball another no ball and the spinner, according to the rules, a dangerous bowler who could not continue. Kieran Noema-Barnett, coming in for Clarkson, delivered the last ball of Patel's fourth over.
However, Bell Drummond departed for 64 runs from 44 balls after chasing a fading delivery wide outside his off stump to Rance that Cleaver gleefully snaffled in the 17th over.
The writing was on the wall for the Aces. Where CD batsmen were pulling off the big shots under pressure, the Aucklanders were giving themselves uppercuts — as evident from Robbie O'Donnell's ramp shot up into his helmet grill in the 19th over from a Rance delivery before losing his ticket for four runs.
The Aucklanders stuttered to 175/5 after running out of overs although they had exchanged 13 extras with CD's 14.
Rance (2-31) and Patel (2-35) were the pick of the bowlers although Milne (1-24) was the most miserly.
Bruce said the Stags had been in a similar situation in the grand final against ND at the same venue last year so they weren't getting carried away because another repeat performance to tonight was imperative.
"They have been a force in the T20 competition for the last few years so they'll be a strong opposition but twenty20 is a fickle game and anything can happen," he said, emphasising the Knights had the same number of internationals to call on as CD.