The SBS Bank Otago Volts have leapfrogged back to the top of the HRV Cup table after beating defending champions the Auckland Aces for the second time in a week.
Chasing a target of 191, which was distinctly gettable on an excellent batting surface, victory was never straightforward for the Volts, with the game twisting and turning to the end.
Missing the experience of injured Andre Adams, expensive early overs from Kyle Mills, Michael Bates and Donovan Grobbelaar meant a large weight fell on the shoulders of the Aces' slower artisans, but Bhupinder Singh responded brilliantly with the spinner finishing returning tidy figures of 0-25.
It was far from the Aces' only fielding glitch of the night, yet they also produced moments of fielding magic right when it counted. Just as the Volts' required run rate had sunk below eight, thanks in the main part to a handsome and sensible 103-run opening partnership from Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom, Mills struck back with two quick wickets falling in the pivotal 13th over.
Aaron Redmond edged a delivery straight to the keeper; then Broom was run out off the final ball of Mills' over. With two new batsmen at the crease, suddenly the hitherto free-flowing boundaries dried up, no ball reaching the boundary for another five overs.
It was Singh, Anaru Kitchen, Bates and impressive young quick Matthew Quinn who had pulled out all the stops to try to prevent the prolific Ryan ten Doeschate and Jimmy Neesham from getting away on them, but when ten Doeschate finally produced a four off the last ball of the 18th, it was enough to swing the match back Otago's way.
He was lucky to survive the following over when Mills almost had him lbw, before coolly collecting the ball and turning to run out Neesham at the non-striker's end. Another magical piece of fielding saw Singh top his night by taking a brilliant backward-running catch to dismiss ten Doeschate in the last over. However, the Volts held firm with captain Derek de Boorder cracking a four to complete a key five-wicket win.
Earlier the Aces' innings had got off to a bizarre beginning with pro Phil Mustard suffering the ignominy of a "diamond duck", calamitously run out in the first over without having faced a delivery. Teenager Jacob Duffy was again the pick of the bowlers, snaring 3-42 with sterling support from spinner Nick Beard, who kept the pressure on through the middle of the innings to finish with a lean 0-16 off his four.
Captain Gareth Hopkins (33 off 21) and Lou Vincent (36 off 24) combined in a promising 67-run stand for the second wicket, but the innings lost momentum after Hopkins' dismissal in the 7th, and by the time the Aces had recovered - thanks to a brisk 66 off 39 from Kitchen, it was too late to push for the 200 run-plus total that the occasion demanded.
The win puts the Otago Volts equal on points with the SKYCITY Northern Knights, but with a game in hand as the race heats up to secure first place and an automatic berth in the final. Their next date is with the bottom-placed Devon Hotel Central Stags in Dunedin on Sunday, while the Knights play the Aces at Mount Maunganui and the HELL Wellington Firebirds meet the Canterbury Wizards in Rangiora on the same day.
Otago Volts - 20
Northern Knights - 20
Wellington Firebirds - 16
Auckland Aces - 8
Canterbury Wizards - 8
Central Stags - 4
Full points table: http://www.blackcaps.co.nz/domestic/points-table/137/hrv-cup.aspx
Full scoreboard: http://scoring.blackcaps.co.nz/livescoring/match1635/scorecard.aspx