CENTURION: Veteran all-rounder Azhar Mahmood grabbed five wickets and struck a half-century as Aukland Aces thrashed Hampshire by 8 wickets to qualify for the main draw of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament on Wednesday.
Mahmood made inroads into the Hampshire top-order as Auckland bundled out the English county team for a modest 121 in 20 overs.
Mahmood then smashed an unbeaten 31-ball-55 to steer his side to a comfortable win with 33 balls to spare.
The Pakistan discard hit five sixes and four boundaries during his innings.
Auckland has thus become the first team to qualify for the main tournament, starting Saturday. The New Zealand T20 champions have won both their qualifying matches, having beaten Sialkot Stallions yesterday.
Two teams -- one each from Pool 1 and 2, will join the eight other teams for the main competition.
The result of today's match means that the final match of the Pool 1 between Sialkot Stallions and Hampshire has been reduced to a dead rubber as the two teams are now out of race for a spot in the competition.
Mahmood, who is now a British passport holder ripped apart the Hampshire top-order when he removed James Vince (11) and Jimmy Adams (0) in a space of four balls.
Then he dismissed dangerous Shahid Afridi for nought in his next over to leave Hampshire reeling at 28 for three inside sixth over.
Left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira (2/25) got rid of Sean Ervine (16) and Glenn Maxwell (11) to add on to the misery of British County team.
Mahmood saw the back of Liam Dawson (11) and Dmitri Mascarenhas (0) to complete his tally.
Martin Guptill (38) and Lou Vincent (19) gave a good start to Auckland by putting up a 49-run stand inside sixth over.
Chris Woods had Vincent caught by Jimmy Adams to get his side the first breakthrough but the match had already slipped out of their hands by then.
Mahmood joined Guptill in the middle and they quickly put on a 41-runs partnership. Afridi broke the stand by removing Guptill. But Mahmood stayed till the end.