Cricket Wanganui's Dilan Raj had expected Auckland to still show up in the National Under 17 Tournament semifinals after his Central Districts team beat them last week, and the Aucklanders certainly did so both literally and figuratively.
Central Districts promising campaign for the title ended with a deflating five wicket loss to the defending champions on the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in the playoffs this afternoon.
The loss reversed Central Districts' five wicket win over Auckland in the opening game on January 17.
Opening batsman Sam Ferguson (Hawke's Bay), had been the talk of the tournament with 344 runs in two games on Sunday and Monday, but he fell for a duck to Nikith Perera (2-24) in the third over.
Whanganui's Sam Sherriff had been the team's next most consistent batsman, and he made 19 from 48 balls when supporting his vice captain William Clark (Hawke's Bay), who looked to carry the innings with 99 from 115 balls.
Clark lost Sherriff to a catch off the bowling of Adithya Ashok (2-39) in the 16th over, and then was cruelly denied his century when Ashok came back to get him caught out in the 38th to leave Central Districts 161-4.
That triggered a collapse as four wickets fell for only 22 more runs added, as it seemed Central Districts would be bundled out for less than 200.
However, Taranaki's Jordan Gard, who has been the side's top bowler, carried his team through the last four overs while blasting four sixes in his innings of 40 not out from 25 balls to raise a hopeful 224-8.
But the Aucklanders took the run chase in their stride, as despite losing their first wicket in the fourth over, Bevon-John Jacobs (75) combined with Dimithri Gallage (95) to swiftly take Auckland to 132-1 in the 27th over when their partnership was finally broken.
Jacobs being caught and bowled by Nelson's Finn Restieaux did not check Auckland's momentum as Liam Wheeler (28) came in to support Gallage.
Manawatu's Thomas Kirk (2-22) put a little flutter in the batting camp when he denied Gallage his century off a catch by Gard, as two wickets fell quickly, but by then Auckland were 201-4 with 11 overs left.
Kirk took the last wicket for Central Districts at the tournament when 217 was on the board, with Auckland reaching 225-5 in the following 43rd over.
Whanganui's Joel Clark was not selected for the match.
Central Districts had already had their confidence dented slightly in the final round robin game on Wednesday, as their four match winning streak was ended by Wellington when rain halted play and they were awarded the victory via Duckworth/Lewis method.
Central Districts struggled early as Ferguson and Sherriff were both dismissed in single figures, but several other batsmen reached their 20's while Restieaux struck 66 off 69 balls before his side was bowled out for 240 in the 48th over.
In reply, Wellington had the match under control as they sat on 213-3 in the 38th over when the rain halted play permanently, which was well above the 151 they needed to be on at that stage under Duckworth/Lewis.
Clark conceeded 24 runs from his three overs of spin.
Both he and Sherriff will return to play for Air Chathams Wanganui against Taranaki this weekend in the Furlong Cup.