Daniel Vettori did not flinch, snaffling three wickets in the final over to edge Team Cricket to a tense two-run win over Team Rugby in the third annual edition of the Black Clash.
With Jordie Barrett on the cusp of carrying Team Rugby to an unlikely upset Vettori nonchalantly stepped up, as he did throughout his decorated New Zealand career, to claim the All Blacks and Hurricanes playmaker for 30 from 11 balls.
Eight runs were required from Vettori’s final over, with the series level 1-1.
Vettori was never remotely flustered as he removed Andy Ellis and Marc Ellis with his notorious arm ball before killing off rugby’s hopes by claiming Barrett to finish with a match-winning 3-11 from four overs.
The only difference from Vettori’s heyday is his thick, wild moustache.
Chasing an imposing 189-5, Will Jordan’s batting exploits could not upstage Peter Fulton after the former Black Caps opener smoked five successive sixes from one over.
Jordan scored two tries off the bench in his second test for the All Blacks last year and he continued that Midas touch with 49 from 29 balls as Rugby attempted to upstage their more fancied counterparts in front of a sold-out crowd in Christchurch on Friday.
Moving around the crease, seemingly at home against Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills and Scott Styris, Jordan’s efforts gave Barrett a fighting chance of swinging Rugby home – the total proving slightly out of reach as Jason Spice holed out on the final ball.
Opening for Cricket alongside Hamish Marshall, who struck a brisk 37 from 20 balls in the 62-run opening partnership, Fulton needed time to get going but picked his moment in the 11th over to tee off and thunder five successive strikes beyond the Hagley Oval rope.
Fulton, cheekily, targeted Kaylum Boshier, having coached the now Taranaki and Chiefs loose forward in the New Zealand cricket under-19 side and suggesting he could not go easy on his former charge.
As the intensity of pre-season training ramps up, one Brumbies veteran has singled out three players that have been keeping him on his toes.https://t.co/iEvrIKv8ML
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 23, 2021
Wielding the willow through to 80 from 51 balls, a knock that featured seven sixes and four boundaries, Fulton appeared to take the game away from Rugby, who unlike previous years could not call on the likes of Mahela Jayawardene or Muttiah Muralitharan due to New Zealand’s closed borders.
Grant Elliott was unbeaten on 34 for Cricket while former Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming (9), Craig McMillan (4) and Styris (8) failed to rekindle former glory.
Andy Ellis proved the pick of the rugby bowlers, taking 3-15 from three overs that resembled Nathan Astle or, perhaps, Gavin Larsen. Israel Dagg also pulled off a superb caught and bowled to remove Marshall and claim 1-27 from four overs.
In response, Jordan and Ofisa Tonu’u complied 74 for the opening wicket, before Nathan McCullum claimed the former All Blacks halfback, the first of his three scalps, for an unconventional 29 from 28 balls which included several reverse sweeps.
As rugby threatened to charge, McCullum’s restrictive 3-20 allowed the heavily-favoured cricket team to breathe a little easier, for a brief instance at least.
McMillan and Adam Parore turned back the clock with two in one over and reduce Rugby to 85-3 with Jordan’s departure leaving Boshier and Jock McKenzie to attempt the rescue mission.
Boshier impressed again in this fixture, hitting three sixes from one horrible Jordan Watson attempt at bowling but he, too, fell to a full, wide delivery as Rugby slumped to 134-5.
Barrett’s late efforts ensured the contest again went down to the final ball, as it did last year, but Vettori’s wise head proved the difference in an entertaining spectacle.
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