Composure in the final overs was needed on both the the No1 and No2 pitches at Victoria Park as the Cricket Express national under-15 girls' tournament went down to the wire on Thursday.

Defending champions Auckland were able to go back-to-back as their middle order held together to register a four-wicket win over Canterbury in the final.

Meanwhile, on the No2 pitch, Central Districts won the playoff for third by two runs in a final-over thriller with Wellington.

Northern Districts got some payback for their one wicket loss to Otago on Tuesday with a three wicket win over them in the playoff for fifth.


On Wednesday afternoon, Auckland and Canterbury advanced to the final after comfortable wins over Northern Districts (nine wickets) and Otago (six wickets) respectively, while Central Districts had a six wicket win over Wellington for the right to play them again, although it was too late to make their fourth final in as many years.

Canterbury posted a reasonable total of 131-6 from their 30 overs, led by an 80-run opening stand from Ellena Firth (39) and Lily Collier (36) before Emma Irwin (4-15) and Anna Browning (2-14) got amongst them to reduce the South Islanders to 92-6.

However, Georgia Edge (20 not out) and Izzy Sharpe (12 not out) were able to survive and bat their team through to a defendable total.

Irwin fell early in Auckland's innings, but Browning (50) was anchoring her side despite running through batting partners, with Canterbury's Abby McKissock (2-27) hitting the stumps twice.

There was some tense moments in the Auckland camp when Browning was the second wicket to fall on 115 in the 24th over, but Alyssa Bowden (13 not out) came on and pierced the field for a couple of boundaries to wrap up the title in the 27th.

To emulate the 2017 team with another championship was a joy for London-native Maia Bouchier, who came to New Zealand to co-coach the team with Khush Patel.

"That's special. To be with these girls and for them to win, part of a great team, I'm pretty proud."

Browning's innings had pulled them through and then the final pair did the rest, Bouchier said.

"The running between the wickets was really, really good."

Five members of the Auckland team will be age eligible for next summer's tournament.

It looked like Central Districts had left themselves a tough task after being bowled out for 118 in 26 overs on the No2 pitch.

Wellington's Rosa Tse (2-12) and Hannah Kells (2-21) did the most damage with the ball, while four runouts did not help Central Districts chances.

Lottie Fuller was one of them but had already top scored with 35, with Sophia Kersten (13) and the tournament's eventual MVP Flora Devonshire (15) helping provide the most resistance through the middle stages.

Central Districts bowlers came out firing as Wellington were reduced to 9-2 and eventually 49-6 with Devonshire (2-14) and Ella Southey (2-29) getting amongst them.

However, the pendulum swung again when Wellington's Georgia Plimmer went on the attack with 53 from 51 balls, including seven boundaries.

With the overs counting down and despite Elizabeth Cohr (2-15) getting Plimmer's partners, it seemed the half century-maker could guide her team through, however she was caught short of her ground going for a risky second run to leave Wellington 109-9 with two overs remaining.

Victoria Jackson (10 not out) stuck in there, and when she just cleared the fielder's hands to reach the boundary off the first ball of the final over, Wellington were 115-9 and seemed to have the momentum back.

However, Central Districts captain Ashtuti Kumar (1-20) held her nerve, producing four straight dot balls and then only giving Jackson a single off the last delivery to see her team home.

Coach Esther Lanser praised Kumar's coolness and her overall tactical decision making.

"Her captaincy has really improved this week.

"The whole team, the growth from Day 1 is huge.

"I feel like we've developed 13 players."

Devonshire had a great allrounders tournament by taking ten wickets, three catches, being part of five run outs and scoring 78 runs, the highlight of which was a towering six against Wellington on Wednesday.

Central Districts' player Flora Devonshire was the tournament MVP after four strong days with bat, ball and in the field.
Central Districts' player Flora Devonshire was the tournament MVP after four strong days with bat, ball and in the field.

Team mentor and White Fern Hannah Rowe deserved a lot of praise for her input in helping build the young girls up, said Lanser.

While the Festival of Cricket has a provincial Under 18 tournament, Lanser hoped the pathway could be strengthened with a full six district Under 17-18 tournament, to stabilise the pathway to the Under 21 women's tournament and address the age level where many players drop out due to university and other commitments.

Five members of the Central District Under 15's – Fuller, Macy Lyford, Jessie Hollard, Olivia Clark and Whanganui's own Charlotte Stent – remain age eligible for next year.

Lanser said the youngster Stent, brought in for experience, had a good week, where despite an injury she jumped on and off the pitch for fielding whenever required.