Azhar Mahmood's fine allround showing helped Auckland Aces beat Hampshire by a huge eight wickets in a Champions League Twenty20 2012 qualifier and reach the main stage of the tournament on Wednesday at the Centurion.
Mahmood's brilliant figures of 5 for 24 stifled the Hampshire batting, restricting their total to 121 in 20 overs. That Hampshire reached a three-digit figure was a surprise after their implosion and it was largely thanks to Mark Carberry's run-a-ball 65 that they posed as much of a defence as they did.
In Auckland's turn with the bat, Mahmood, coming in at No. 3, scored an unbeaten half-century to take his team home.\
Chasing 122, Martin Guptill and Lou Vincent didn't take the low target as reason for a slow chase. They raced to 49 with a flurry of hits, before Chris Wood dismissed Vincent (19) to end the partnership. There was no reprieve for Hampshire though. Mahmood stepped up and continued Auckland's fast-paced approach to the target. Guptill and Mahmood put up 41 runs for the second wicket, before Shahid Afridi came on to dismiss Guptill (38).
At that stage, Auckland needed 32 runs from 53 balls. And with Anaru Kitchen (6 n.o.) at the other end little more than a spectator, Mahmood upped the ante to take Auckland past the finish line with 32 balls remaining.
Earlier, Hampshire were put to bat and their opening pair of Carberry and James Vince put up 23 before Mahmood claimed Vince (11) as his first victim when the right-hand batsman attempted to charge but only managed a lob to Andre Adams at mid-on. It served as a domino effect, with wickets thereafter falling at regular intervals. Mahmood scalped both Jimmy Adams and Shahid Afridi for nought, leaving Hampshire in desperate need of a partnership.
It came via Sean Ervine and Carberry, as they put up 36 runs for the fourth wicket, scoring slowly but steadily. Having settled, they attempted to accelerate the scoring but that proved their undoing, Ervine (16) lobbing Ronnie Hira straight to long-on. Glen Maxwell (11), the Australian allrounder, became Hira's second wicket not too long later before Liam Dawson aided Cranberry to take the total past the 100-run mark, while adding 31 runs for the sixth wicket.
Hampshire's attempts to up the scoring later on, in the 17th over, played right into Mahmood's hands. He dismissed Dawson (11) and Dimitri Mascarenhas (0) in the same over and Cranberry fell in the very next over, to Michael Bates, as Hampshire put up a modest 121.
As it turned out, 121 proved too little, especially given the form Mahmood was in.