Auckland cantered into the final of the Super Smash Twenty 20 cricket competition after beating defending champions Northern Districts in Hamilton, thanks in no small part to Michael Bates creating a slice of history.
Northern were bowled out for a disappointing 140, with Bates claiming the first hat-trick in domestic Twenty20 cricket. He cleaned up Northern's tail, dismissing firstly Scott Kuggeleijn, then Jono Boult and Ish Sodhi.
Auckland chased down the target with consumate ease, winning by six wickets and with 15 balls to spare.
The result will be a bitter pill for Northern, who qualified for the playoffs in top spot but failed to win either of their preliminary finals, having also lost to Wellington on Friday. The result means Auckland will take on Wellington in today's final, which is also being played at Seddon Park.
Hat-tricks have been elusive during the short history of the Twenty20 game, with just three recorded in international cricket. Of those, two were claimed by New Zealanders, the first to Jacob Oram in 2009 and the second to Tim Southee in 2010.
Bates has a well-deserved reputation as a quality domestic death bowler and used cross-seam guile and pace variation to have Kuggeleijn caught at deep square leg, Boult caught at long on, and Sodhi caught behind.
Bates couldn't have picked a better time to deliver. With a place in the final on the line, and the prospect of Champions League riches for the eventual competition winner, there was everything to play for.
Northern got off to a flier thanks largely to Irish import Kevin O'Brien, who hit an imperious 52 of 25 balls. He bashed his side to 101-4 after 12.2 overs and his innings had some sublime moments - a six over extra cover off a short-pitched ball almost defying plausibility.
At that point Auckland were facing the the prospect of a daunting run chase, but once Irishman fell to leg-spinner Tarun Nethula, the brakes were applied thanks to the miserly trio of Bates (4-10), Nethula (2-20) and Donovan Grobbelaar (1-26).
Needing only seven an over, Auckland went about their work in business-like fashion and never looked like losing.
Craig Cachopa led the way with an unbeaten 79 off 47 balls, receiving solid assistance from Rob Nicol (19 off 20) and Colin Munro (28 off 19).