In a record-breaking 497-run T20 match in New Plymouth, Neil Wagner defended eight off the final over to help Otago clinch a one-run thriller against Central Districts. It became the highest aggregate of runs in a T20, beating 489 scored by India and West Indies in Lauderhill in August this year. Otago raced to 249 on the back of a 46-ball hundred by Hamish Rutherford, before Mahela Jayawardene’s 48-ball century kept Central Districts in the hunt. With two required off the final ball, Dane Cleaver was run-out.
Jayawardene batted till the 19th over during his third T20 century – 116 off 56 balls. Central Districts needed 21 off 11 balls when he was dismissed. Tom Bruce kept firing at the other end with a 22-ball fifty. A no-ball and a wide in the penultimate over helped Central Districts, before a six from Bruce brought the equation to 10 off seven. However, they couldn’t score a boundary thereafter. Wagner conceded eight off the first five balls of his over. Cleaver was subsequently run-out, and the Otago players ended in a heap while celebrating.
“Wags has been sensational in the death throughout this whole campaign so to have him bowl that over was exciting,” Rutherford said. “I just said to him, ‘Mate, come on, this is what you play cricket for’. And as Neil usually is, he was absolutely fizzing for it. Once it got down to that last ball, it took a while to understand what we were going to do and we thought about maybe a Super Over but to walk away with an actual victory at that point was amazing.”
Openers George Worker and Jayawardene had given the chase a flying start by putting on 50 in just four overs. Worker fell for 35 off 20 in the last over of the Powerplay, to Jimmy Neesham, and captain Will Young managed 16 off 10 balls. Needing 145 runs off 10.5 overs, Jayawardene and Bruce clobbered 124 in only nine overs. Jayawardene smacked 11 fours and six sixes when he reached his century. Bruce knocked three fours and six sixes in his unbeaten 61 off 29. Neesham was the only bowler to concede at less than 10 per over in the innings, with figures of 2 for 37.
“I guess you look back and say he gave us two chances and unfortunately we put them down,” Rutherford said of Jayawardene’s innings later. “I’m not sure where that would have ended up if they were taken. But again you can’t put it away from him, it was a quality innings – untroubled, he hit some nice shots in nice areas and didn’t try and manipulate too much.”
Otago had cashed in on their decision to bat as the openers Anaru Kitchen and Rutherford plundered 100 runs in 8.2 overs. Both scored their half-centuries off 25 balls. They put on 130 in 11 overs before Kitchen’s stumps were knocked over by left-arm spinner Marty Kain’s flat delivery, for his 54 that included three fours and five sixes. Rutherford and Neil Broom then joined forces to hammer 67 runs in the next five overs. Rutherford took only 21 balls for his next 50 runs to score his maiden T20 hundred. He holed out to long-on of Seth Rance for 106 when they were three runs adrift of 200 with four overs left.
Neesham scored an 11-ball 18 before he also fell to Rance. Broom was unbeaten on 42 off 24 and Michael Bracewell struck the three balls he faced for a four and two sixes to post the highest T20 total in New Zealand and the seventh-highest overall.
The win helped Otago to third on the points table, two points behind second-placed Central Districts.
“I’m sure it’s something everyone will remember for a long time. These moments really come crucial towards the end of the tournament, you remember those moments, those games, those tight finishes so that will put is in good stead moving forward,” Rutherford said.