Claudia Green picked up the game changer award but Melissa Hansen could easily have been on the podium after the Central Districts Hinds kept their playoff hopes alive.
It's when co-skipper Jess Watkin threw the ball to Hansen in the ninth over to say do as I do that the worm turned in favour of the visitors as they beat second-placed Auckland Hearts by 14 runs in their Super Smash Twenty20 match at Eden Park outer oval on Saturday.
Consequently the Wairarapa bowler took 1-19 to emulate the feat of Watkin (0-19) — both sharing the frugality stakes of 4.75 an over — as CD tightened the screws on the Hearts, who are assured of an eliminator berth despite the loss although hosting the match looks iffy.
"In the last couple of games we lost wickets in clumps so it's something we're trying to work on," said Hansen after taking the crucial catch to dismiss Auckland captain Anna Peterson off co-skipper Hannah Rowe's ball before engineering the dismissal of promoted opener Holly Huddleston who had come in for Saachi Shahri — who dropped to No 7 — to try to dent the confidence of the new-ball CD seamers.
"We don't need to go out to bash it but we need to just accumulate runs to get through our overs and have wickets in hand to tee off in the end," said Hansen, revealing the Jamie Watkins-coached CD had felt 140 was a challenging target.
It was a massive turnaround in the attitude of the Hinds in the abbreviated format that saw them show some fortitude despite posting a modest total of 138/6 in their allotted 20 overs after Watkin won the toss and elected to bat on a park that offered up to 56km/h wind gusts.
Interestingly it was the run-a-ball merchants who had eased them over the 120-run mark, albeit with marginal profit, to suggest the definition of T20 isn't necessarily "have a big bash".
The Hallyburton Shield opening batsman, who had dropped to No 7 to be four not out, said she was on call to roll her arm when required but her latest T20 offerings suggest she might be under utilised.
"I've just got to take my chances so, obviously, today I opened well and bowled all the way," she said.
Emily Cunningham had chopped on to her sticks for four runs from an Arlene Kelly delivery that invited a shot but not of the variety the CD opener had pulled out from her tool kit.
It was the departure of Watkin — holing out to Huddleston between long off and long on from a Peterson delivery for 28 (20 balls) — that was cruel because the opener had played some crisp shots with the promise of a solid knock.
Natalie Dodd, at first drop, again assumed the mantle of responsibility in the innings with educated strokes to rotate the strike while punctuating it with the odd boundary.
Peterson also led by example when opening seamer Huddleston coughed up an erratic 2-24 from two overs. She employed her spin to claim 1-20 from her allotted four overs.
Hinds No 4 Anlo van Deventer and Rowe came and went for 11 and two respectively, but it was the arrival of Rosemary Mair that injected a decent partnership with Dodd.
When Dodd departed for 43 runs (42 balls) — trying to pull a short ball from Huddleston to hole out to Amie Hucker at deep backward square leg — it was time for waltzing to give way to rock and roll.
White Fern Mair, of Napier, saw the innings through with an unbeaten 36 from as many balls to help post a target that wasn't bullish but honest enough to demand bowling and fielding discipline.
Kelly took 2-22 and Bella Armstrong, at first change, claimed 2-33 but a wicket-less teenager, Fran Jonas, was the most frugal at 4.67 an over on a bouncy strip.
In reply, the Hearts accrued 31 runs for no loss in five overs although it did help that Green had dropped Peterson on five runs and Van Deventer and Rowe butchered another chance when they extended Huddleston's life on 19. A few balls later, Rowe had Peterson, caught Hansen, for 15 runs.
Just as Peterson had done, Watkin was creating a pressure-cooker situation with her offspin but Mair had haemorrhaged 13 runs at the other end.
However, the introduction of Hansen and Green stopped the rot as Auckland's required run rate rose above 11.
The Hearts had raised the fielding bar — with Hucker and Jonas showing age has nothing to do with it — so, for the best part, the Hinds had risen to the occasion.
"Obviously fielding is the game changer so the team that does that often comes out on top," said Wairarapa Cricket Association development officer Hansen. "We've always prided ourselves on our fielding as a CD unit ... but it is still something for us to work on."
Hansen got Huddleston, caught Rowe, for 30 (33 balls) and Green superbly ran out Regina Lili'i for four from mid off but that only brought White Fern Katie Perkins to the crease as she forged a co-operative with Kelly.
Whether it was the assurance of an eliminator berth or the desire to play on the road, Perkins (36 runs from 29 balls) and Kelly (26 from 25) seemed to have left it too late to pull the trigger as the deliveries drained away and the run rate became increasingly demanding.
Mair came back in style — albeit in the slap-slog last over — to sit on a hattrick, after dismissing Perkins and Kelly to finish for 2-28 in putting the Hearts out of their misery at 124/5.
The sceptical will say come eliminator final a different Auckland will come out to play, with the added value of batsman Lauren Down presumably cleared of concussion.
Did the Hearts or the Hinds show enough mettle in their bowling attack to counter the might of a "loaded", table-topping Wellington Firebirds sleepwalking their way into the grand final?
The jury's out on that one although the Otago Sparks, who host CD in Dunedin in the penultimate round next Saturday, may beg to differ.
Hansen said the Hinds were still in the hunt for the third spot but beating Otago, who had outplayed them in the 72-run victory at McLean Park, was the first step in what should have an eliminator-final feel about it.
An undefeated but complacent Blaze, who had numerous fumbles on the field in their win over Northern Districts Spirits on Friday, will, no doubt, treat their match against Hearts as a dress rehearsal at the Basin Reserve on Sunday next week.