Aces crush Hampshire to qualify

Azhar Mahmood’s sensational all-round performance was the highlight of the Auckland Aces’ eight-wicket win against Hampshire in the third qualifying match of the Karbonn Champions League T20 2012. After putting their opponents in to bat, the Aces did very well to restrict them to 121 for eight, thanks to Azhar Mahmood’s five-wicket haul; and then they got the required runs in 14.3 overs to register a resounding win. With the victory, the Aces confirmed their passage to the main event of CLT20 2012.

Set to chase a modest 122, the Auckland Aces opening pair of Martin Guptill and Lou Vincent built the platform with a quick fire 49-run partnership. Though the pair scored only 15 runs in the first three overs, they signaled their intentions to get done with the run-chase quickly when they got stuck into Kabir Ali and Dimitri Mascarenhas in the fourth and fifth overs. While Guptill hit Ali for two boundaries and a six in the fourth over, Vincent hit Mascarenhas for three boundaries in the fifth.

With both batsmen middling the ball well, Hampshire earned a wicket from unlikely quarters; Vincent (19) powered a wide delivery from Chris Wood, but Jimmy Adams fielding at short cover pulled off a sharp catch to end what was shaping to be a dangerous innings. Guptill would be dismissed subsequently for 38. The 26-year-old – who has been in stupendous form recently – enjoyed his time in the middle as he hit three boundaries and two sixes in his 31-ball innings. But he miscued an attempted lofted on-drive and holed out to Kabir Ali patrolling the long-on boundary.

Though Guptill played an important innings, and an entertaining one too, his knock would be overshadowed by Azhar Mahmood’s brilliance. The 37-year-old, who was sensational with the ball earlier in the afternoon, sent the Hampshire bowlers on a leather hunt and changed the match into a no-contest; he hit five boundaries to go with his four towering sixes during his unbeaten 55 (off 31 balls) and helped his team race to the finish line. Anaru Kitchen was unbeaten on six when Mahmood cut Glenn Maxwell for a boundary through point to score the winning runs.

For Hampshire, all the bowlers barring Shahid Afridi (1-23) came in for a bit of a stick. Chris Wood was the only other wicket-taker for the English Twenty20 champions.

Earlier in the afternoon, Azhar Mahmood broke the backbone of the Hampshire line-up with a five-wicket haul. Though opener Michael Carberry held one end firm, the batsmen at the other end struggled to cope with the tennis ball bounce and deviation the pitch offered.

Mahmood was introduced into the attack in the fourth over and was welcomed into the attack with a huge six over long-on. But the former Pakistan all-rounder would have the last laugh as he would pick up the wickets of opener James Vince and Jimmy Adams in the same over. He struck a big blow in his following over when he dismissed the dangerous Shahid Afridi for a duck. He also dismissed Liam Dawson and Mascarenhas to finish with his best figures in Twenty20 cricket of 5-24.

Ronnie Hira (2-25) and Michael Bates (1-27) accounted for the remaining three wickets, while Andre Adams and Kyle Mills kept things quiet in their respective four-over spells.

That the Hampshire batsmen struggled for momentum can be established from the fact that they scored less than six runs an over in 11 of their twenty overs. The biggest partnership of the innings was the 36-run stand for the fourth wicket between Sean Ervine and Carberry. The sixth wicket association of Liam Dawson and Carberry was worth 31 runs. Hampshire would eventually finish their allotted twenty overs at 121 for eight – at least 30 runs short of what should have been the par score in the given conditions.

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