Snazzy hairdos will complement a spring in the step of the rampant Central Districts Stags after they booked a home grand final in the domestic men's one-day cricket format in New Plymouth today.
CD captain William Young will lead his charges out again at Pukekura Park on Saturday next week after they thumped the Auckland Aces by seven wickets today in the first Ford Trophy semifinal.
The Canterbury Kings walloped the Northern Districts Knights by 168 runs at Cobham Oval, Whangarei, in the 3rd v 4th semifinal today so the Kings will now face the Aces in the preliminary final at Colin Maiden Park on Wednesday to decide who meets the Heinrich Malan-coached CD in the televised grand final.
If rain dictates on Wednesday then Auckland, as the No 2 qualifiers, will advance to the grand final at the expense of the defending champions.
It is the second grand final for the men in green who lost the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 bragging rights to the Knights at Seddon Park, Hamilton, last month.
It was a rain-interrupted affair today at Pukekura Park for the table-topping Stags after Young won the toss and had the visitors padding up for a below-par 240 all out with criminally 25 balls still left in the bank vaults.
No 7 Ben Horne top scored for the Aces with 63 runs before Young ran him out but discarded Black Caps wicketkeeper Glenn Phillips scored 45 as an opener while spinner Tarun Nethula contributed a valuable 51 at No 9.
Returning from a five-week hiatus following a hamstring injury, seamer Doug Bracewell took 3-60 one ball shy of his 10 overs at first change for CD.
"It was good to see Dougie back on the park. He was unlucky and took a little bit of tap towards the end but he didn't deserve it," Bruce said of Bracewell, adding it would have been nice to see him bat as well.
Fellow Black Caps seamer Adam Milne was the most frugal at 2-37 from nine overs while T20 international Seth Rance and spinner Ajaz Patel claimed 1-47 and 1-46, respectively, at the postage stamp-sized venue which can rattle most bowlers.
Consequently the Stags bowlers, including a wicket-less Blair Tickner, must take a bow for stifling the Aucklanders.
"The bowlers set the tone and we fielded pretty well so to restrict them to 240 in 45.5 overs was very pleasing for an under-par score at Puke Park," said Bruce tonight.
The Taranaki cricketer said the wicket was two-paced in the early overs and not easy for the Aces to bat on.
"We made some early breakthroughs in the middle so they were never able to go on."
The 26-year-old Te Kuiti-born player said the Aucklanders had dug their toes in towards the end but the bowlers ensured CD went in to bat on the front foot.
Horne, improving on his previous best score of 24 in the format, and Nethula, emulating that feat on his previous 49, established the highest eighth-wicket partnership of 105 runs for the Aces against the Stags. It eclipsed the record of 93 Gareth Hopkins and another spinner, Ronnie Hira, had set.
In reply, after rain and ground delays, the hosts chased down a revised Duckworth-Lewis Method total of 190 in 32 overs with 191-3 in just 25.4 overs.
Black Cap batsman George Worker scored 46 runs and so did fellow opener Ben Smith while ex-New Zealand international Jesse Ryder was unbeaten on 53 at first drop with No 5 Bruce, 19 not out.
Bruce said it was nice for the Stags top order to reply with some intent on a revised target.
"We got into sixes straight away and the boys played pretty well. George laid a solid platform for Jesse to come and play in the end there."
He said rain determining a result had a tendency to rob a victory of its gloss so CD were delighted to settle that score on the park.
"Obviously we've done enough to be on the top of the table but you want to win and make your way to the grand final rather than let other factors dictate what happens," he said of today's no reserve day playoffs.
Bruce said CD had their fingers crossed on good weather for a grand finale on Saturday next week.
"The bowlers are the pretty boys so they always have fancy hairdos, look smart and have clean caps," he said with a chuckle.