The home-ground dream has dissipated but captain Tom Bruce says the Central Districts Stags are wiser for it when they reload against the Auckland Aces in the Big Smoke in the elimination final on Friday.
"It's certainly not a train wreck but we should be better the next time," said Bruce today after the eight-wicket loss to the Aces at Eden Park outer oval yesterday to determine who would have the hosting rights to the elimination final to face leaders Northern Districts Knights at Seddon Park, Hamilton, on Sunday.
Instead the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags will have the chance to make things right when they face Auckland again in the televised Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 elimination final from 4.10pm on Friday.
"Obviously they played exceptionally well yesterday and we probably weren't quite at our best," he said.
Bruce said a cursory glance gave the appearance of a thrashing, considering the Aces had 17 balls in the bank when they eclipsed CD's total of 174/9, for the loss of two wickets, in their allotted 20 overs, but if the Stags had played to their potential they would have had the chance of hosting the semifinal at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.
CD were gunning for a 200 total, especially at the halfway mark of their innings after opener George Worker (52 runs from 43 balls) provided an ideal platform, but no one came to the party until No 6 Joshua Clarkson (42/26) stopped the rot.
"We left some runs out there on a really good wicket with good boundaries so 200 ... so we've just left ourselves short out there," he said.
Auckland spinners Roneel Hira (3-22) and Will Sommerville (2-30) carved the heart out of the CD top order before Mitchell McClenaghan had Worker's number.
"They obviously know how to bowl on that ground and they showed our guys what you can do when you bowl the right lengths and lines to take the heart out of our batting 11," Bruce said.
Opener Daniel Bell-Drummond (74/48) and Mark Chapman (75no/41), at first drop, gave CD bowlers little respite.
Only back-from-injury Black Caps seamer Adam Milne made inroads with 2-35. Black Caps tweaker Ajaz Patel and opening seamer Seth Rance were wicketless but frugal while others took some stick.
Bruce said the CD top order probably took some bad options but some good ones had come up shy as well of the execution mark.
"It's the bonus of having played them [Aces] up there so we know what they'll bring [on Friday] so they'll be no excuses next week if we put in the same sort of performance," he said. "We'll have to learn quickly and just be better on Friday."
Black Caps seamer Doug Bracewell and international newbie Blair Tickner are likely to be back in the equation.