DISCOVERY BAY, St Ann — Half-Way-Tree Sparks secured their spot in the semi-finals of the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) after defeating Ocho Rios Chargers by 29 runs in a low-scoring encounter at the scenic Noranda Bauxite ground yesterday.
The Sparks ended atop Zone B with three wins from as many matches, while Ocho Rios are virtually eliminated after one victory and two losses.
The University Dynamites also advanced to the last four after defeating Zone A rivals MoBay Sixers by five wickets in the second game at the venue.
The Half-Way-Tree outfit was superbly led by captain Nikita Miller, who starred with both bat and ball to win the player-of-the-match award.
Scores: Half-Way-Tree Sparks 108-9 (20 overs); Ocho Rios Chargers 79 (18.1 overs)
Batting first, Half-Way-Tree lost the premier wickets of Simon Jackson (2), Andre McCarthy (11), Yannick Elliott (7) and Garth Garvey (16) and slipped to 61-8 in the 17th over.
However Miller, batting at number nine, produced a cameo innings of 25 off 11 balls to boost the score to 108-9. He was assisted by number 10 batsman Fabian Forbes, who struck 17 not out.
Bowling for Ocho Rios, left-arm spinner Patrick Harty took 2-14 off four overs, while Kemar Allen grabbed 2-17. Orlando Drysdale and and Demar Davis also chimed in with two wickets a-piece.
The run-chase proved to be a tricky one for the Ocho Rios team on a batting surface that produced inconsistent pace and bounce.
They quickly lost marquee batsmen Xavier Marshall (5), John Campbell (7) and Aldane Thomas (5) and never recovered as the Half-Way-Tree bowlers rampaged through the batting line-up. Davis top-scored with a 28-ball 21.
Miller, the out-of-favour West Indies left-arm spinner, took 3-4 off three overs and a ball, while Christopher Lamont and Elliott supported with two wickets each.
In the afternoon fixture, national batsman Nkrumah Bonner cracked a 52-ball 57 in the Dynamites' elimination of the Sixers.
Scores: MoBay Sixers 91 (17.4 overs); University Dynamites 92-5 (15.4 overs)
The MoBay Sixers opted to take first strike and could manage only 91 in 17 overs and three balls. Kenar Lewis and Jermaine Blackwood, both with experience at the national level, topscored with 31 and 24, respectively.
Bowling for the University team, spinner Cassius Burton snared 4-18 off four overs, while Ralston Levy ended with 2-24. National pacer Andrew Richardson grabbed 1-8.
University in reply, lost Jon-Ross Campbell (6) and Peat Salmon (0), both via the run out route, before Bonner took over.
Though dropped on 31 by Blackwood and again on 51 by Lewis, the confident Bonner struck several booming shots during his half-ton.
He was helped near the end of the chase by former youth player Shacoya Thomas, who made an unbeaten 20.
Spinner Ziggy Levy finished with 2-12 off four overs.
The preliminary phase will end today with a double-header at the Chedwin Park ground in St Catherine.
Kingston Hurricanes will oppose Zone B competitors Spanish Town Titans in the 9:30 am curtain-raiser, while in Zone A, the clash between May Pen Earthquakes and Mandeville Thunder will follow at 1:30 pm.