Low-playing pitches made for a seamer's paradise at Victoria Park on Saturday as Property Brokers United and St Johns Tech both picked up important Premier League victories in a penultimate round where high batting scores were the rarest commodity.
For Tech, it was a morale-boosting first victory in the second half of this summer, as somehow from only having two wickets remaining with less than 50 on the board they manufactured a 46-run victory over a hapless Matt Burke Engineering Marton Saracens.
Tailender Paul O'Callaghan had his best match with bat and ball on New Zealand soil, as the Englishman scored 34 to be the last man out when he was stumped off Bryant Galpin.
Marton's most successful bowlers were the Dans Ford and Gordon who took 4-40 off 10 overs and 3-10 off six respectively.
"At 48-8 I was a little concerned and the call was to get at least 100 to give themselves a chance to defend it," said Tech coach Andrew Lock.
But despite having only just clawed his team to triple digits, O'Callaghan just had to get it straight and add an extra yard of pace and suddenly Tech's total looked defendable.
Saracens top order collapsed to be 23-3 and from there the country team never recovered.
"Once [Dominic] Rayner got out for 17 there wasn't a lot of resistance," said Lock.
O'Callaghan rattled the stumps twice, got an lbw, and had two catches taken off his bowling to finish with 5-27 off eight overs, while Kane Watkin took 2-18 from his six.
Across on the No2 ground, United kept their slim hopes alive of claiming the titles in all three formats this season with a two-wicket win over table-topping Bayer Marist.
Marist captain Mark Fraser said they got an idea of how tough the wicket would be when opener Brett Cameron got a delivery popping off the pitch straight into his shoulder and then the very next ball stayed dead low to catch him lbw.
From 16-2 and then 51-4, Fraser led a small recovery with 63, backed by Adam Boult (20) and Ross Kinnerley (16) as Marist would have taken some confidence that they could still defend 156 under those conditions.
They had watched United medium pacer Brendan Walker pick up figures of 5-28 off his 12 overs, while spinner Tom Lance got the key men in Boult and Fraser to finish with 3-62 from his full 15-over quota.
The Kinnerleys were both lethal early on as Ross took a catch off his own bowling in the first over, then older brother Fraser grabbed another scalp from the other end.
United captain Max Carroll got a yorker from Ross Kinnerley that he literally could do nothing with, as United slumped to 21-4 after eight overs.
However, unlike Saracens across the way, the team in blue had some club cricket stalwarts in their lower order as veteran Gerrard Hobbs carried his bat to 50 not out, supported by Robbie Power (22) and Walker (24).
Reaching 157-8, United managed to see off Ross Kinnerley's 15 overs, as he finished with 5-50.
Hobbs said their win gave them a slight hope heading into the final round this weekend, with Marist still on top of the table despite their first loss in a points-counting game.
"We have to win against Saracens and need Tech to beat them."
Marist 156 (M Fraser 63, A Boult 20, B Walker 5-28, T Lance 3-62) lost to United 157-8 (G Hobbs 50no, B Walker 24, R Power 22, R Kinnerley 5-50).
Tech 100 (P O'Callaghan 34, D Ford 4-40, D Gordon 3-10) beat Saracens 54 (P O'Callaghan 5-27, K Watkin 2-18).