Whanganui's former White Fern Jessica Watkin tried her best, but she could not carry her Central Hinds team through to the playoffs of the Dream11 Super Smash after a seven wicket loss to the Otago Sparks in Dunedin this afternoon.
Going into the match sitting third on the table by half a point more than the home side, who still had a game in hand, the Hinds were in must-win mode and had a strong start at the University of Otago Oval.
Co-captain Watkin (18) and Taranaki's Emily Cunningham (18) put on a 34-run opening stand at nearly a run-a-ball, with Watkin hitting a four and a towering six that just evaded the diving fielder to clear the boundary.
However, Otago fielded well throughout the innings, as both Cunningham and Watkin fell to catches off the bowling of Hannah Darlington (3-12) and Emma Black (2-24) respectively.
The other Hinds got starts but never really got on top of the attack, with Manawatu's other co-captain Hannah Rowe being run out after the last ball with a top score of 22, with her team raising an inadequate 104-6.
Nonethless, spinner Watkin also opened the bowling and put the Sparks right under pressure to be 20-3 in the sixth over.
She induced the key player Suzie Bates into giving up a simple catch, while then getting another by hanging on to a hard hit caught-and-bowled on the Australian-based pro Hayley Jensen.
Volts skipper Katey Martin was also run out in Watkin's second over.
However, Watkin (2-16, one maiden) could only bowl four overs, coming back to deliver her last one after team mates were unsuccessful in containing the surviving opener Millie Cowan (55 not out off 51 balls) and partner Amanda-Jade Wellington (37 not out off 37).
Cowan and Wellington negotiated Watkin's final over and then carried on, being untroubled by the other six Hinds bowlers, to reach 106-3 at the start of the 18th over – having hit ten boundaries between them.
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It was then an Otago double header victory as the Volts picked up a comprehensive nine wicket win over the Central Stags to lock in their playoff berth.
After losing an early wicket, the Stags were recovering at 74-1 in the 11th over, thanks to the Manawatu pair of George Worker (24) and Dane Cleaver (42).
However, the Volts took three quick wickets to reduced the Stags to 88-3, with Taranaki skipper and expat Wanganui player Tom Bruce scoring three straight singles before giving up a catch in the deep off bowler Michael Rippon.
Anaru Kitchen (2-22) got the initial breakthrough, as the Stags batted out to 139-6.
In reply, Black Caps Hamish Rutherford (81 not out off 54) and Neil Broom (34 off 26) had the Volts away to a rocket start.
After Broom was trapped in front by Hawke's Bay's Kieran Noema-Barnett in the ninth over at 71-1, Rutherford was just supported by Dean Foxcroft (22 not out off 25) to reach 141-1 midway through the 18th over, signing the match off with a boundary.
Rutherford hit eight boundaries and three sixes to get his team home.
The loss meant the Stags will be hoping top side the Wellington Firebirds can beat the Auckland Aces tomorrow at the Basin Reserve, so that they can hang on to third place and the last finals berth.