The penultimate Dream11 Super Smash home match of the 2022/23 season promised blue skies and big scores at Kennards Hire Community Oval as the ACES & HEARTS faced off against Wellington’s finest, the Blaze and Firebirds.
After Blaze skipper Melie Kerr won the toss and elected to field the HEARTS immediately removed Thamsyn Newton with a sharp runout from Prue Catton.
Kerr and Rebecca Burns then lifted the tempo with an attacking partnership. Burns found the rope and Kerr worked the singles and by the 12th over with the score at 1/85 it looked as though the HEARTS might be staring down the barrel at a chase in excess of 160.
Makayla Templeton then removed Burns and Amie Hucker managed to prize out the formidable Kerr. The HEARTS then sucked the life out of the innings and pressured the Blaze into mistakes, with two more runouts further denting their cause.
In the end their score of 131/6 was under-par according to skipper Kerr.
Templeton ended as the pick of the bowlers, finding similar control to the last match with 2/20 off her four overs.
In reply, the HEARTS got off to a decent start with Saachi Shahri continuing her great form at the top of the innings by peppering the boundary behind square.
Prue Catton also looked in decent nick at the start off her innings but her dismissal for 11 seemed to rob the HEARTS of their impetus and they quickly fell behind the required run rate.
Lauren Down struggled for timing and was dismissed for 8 off 15 balls. Bella Armstrong timed the ball well and combined nicely with Shahri but after she and Shahri fell in quick succession there was no way back into the match for the HEARTS.
They eventually stumbled to 105/8 off their 20 overs and will be kicking themselves after failing to make the most of a prime opportunity to end Wellington’s 17-match winning streak.
All is not lost for their playoff chances however, and they’ll look to their two match-ups coming up against the struggling Northern Brave as a way to consolidate their position in the top 3.
Auckland HEARTS 105/8 (Saachi Shahri 39) lost to Wellington Blaze 131/8 (Rebecca Burns 53) by 26 runs
The shadows lengthened but the sun remained unblocked by clouds as the ACES took the field against the Firebirds, with skipper Robbie O’Donnell winning the toss and electing to bowl.
His decision was justified immediately with Ben Lister scything through the Wellington openers. His dismissal of Nick Kelly was particularly memorable: a patented inswinger to the left-hander castling Kelly’s middle stump.
Sean Solia then got in on the fun, taking two wickets in two balls to remove Johnson and Smith before being denied a hat-trick as Jacob Bhula’s edge burst through keeper Ben Horne’s hands.
Robbie O’Donnell rain out the dangerous Rachin Ravindra, landing a direct hit with one stump to aim at.
After being 46/5 after 8 overs, Van Been and Bhula combined to lift the Wellington Firebirds out of the doldrums and some big hitting at the end allowed them to post a respectable 153/6 off their 20 overs.
The ACES would have been kicking themselves a little bit to allow the Firebirds back into the game but perhaps would have taken 154 as a target if offered to them at the start of the day.
The pitch seemed to suddenly play a little lower and slower when the ACES started their chase and while Briggs and Worker got the team off to a solid start, at 0/44 in the 8th over, the target of 154 seemed a little less diminutive as it did at the break.
Quick wickets followed as the ACES batter struggled to time the ball against the accurate medium pace of Nathan Smith but it was Peter Younghusband who picked up the breakthroughs initially as the ACES limped to 76/5 after 13 overs.
They needed a hero and thankfully, the skipper answered the call. Robbie O’Donnell was circumspect initially, but grew in confidence once he found the boundary rope a few times and launched his attack on Michael Snedden at the perfect moment, crunching three sixes off the 17th over and putting the win firmly within his team’s grasp.
Once he was dismissed for 59 off 27, the lower order stuttered but crucial boundaries to Delport and Ashok saw the boys home in the last over.
The win doesn’t quite lift the ACES out of trouble at the bottom of the ladder but it signals a vital boost in luck and form and with three matches remaining, two against the 5th placed Northern Brave and one more against the Firebirds, the ACES will be quietly confident they can get enough points to lift them up somewhere near the top three.
Auckland ACES 156/8 (Robbie O’Donnell 59, Nathan Smith 3/13) beat Wellington Firebirds 153/6 (L Van Beek 54) by two wickets
Next up: Auckland ACES & HEARTS vs. Northern Brave (Men & Women) at Bay Oval, Tauranga on Sunday 22nd of January