Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds 167-7 (Michael Papps 41, Tarun Nethula 2-13) lost to Mondiale Auckland Aces 169-2 in 16.5 overs (Rob Nicol 71*, Anaru Kitchen 43, Luke Woodcock 1-25) by eight wickets.
The Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds winning streak ended abruptly when they hosted their first match at home on Friday night to kick off the Georgie Pie Super Smash Wellington festival.
Sent in by Mondiale Auckland Aces skipper Rob Nicol, the Firebirds had started well enough. The Aces’ pace attack struggled to hold their line in windy conditions as Michael Pollard and Michael Papps took advantage, charging into their healthy strike rate and racking up an early RPO in double figures. Pollard in particular racked up the bonus runs, latching on to a free hit for six off Lockie Ferguson before that delivery itself was deemed a no ball.
The Firebirds put 70 on the board in just seven overs before the Aces started to get a grip, removing Pollard and then Stephen Murdoch in successive overs. With James Franklin at the crease, the Firebirds had a chance to stabilise the innings and pull things back their way. He guided the ball to the boundary to bring up the Firebirds’ hundred in the 13th over, but just as he needed to up the ante he shovelled an easy catch to his opposing captain at cover.
Things then rapidly turned to custard for the Firebirds on a night that saw spinners grab most of the wickets. They lost their big-hitting machine Brad Hodge for just one run after he was slickly run out by Nicol, while Grant Elliott played a handsome drive against tall paceman Matt Quinn only to be caught by a bounding Anaru Kitchen right on the long boundary. The rollicking start had faded away as the Firebirds scrambled to 167-7 — then they were forced to watch as Nicol powered away to an unbeaten 71 that clinched an eight-wicket win for the Aucklanders.
Like the Wellingtonians, the Aces had started off on all cylinders. Making his first appearance this season, new pro Luke Wright survived a confident lbw appeal from Luke Fletcher third ball of the chase before being caught three balls later. But it was a brief setback only, as Nicol and Kitchen started racking up the boundaries — scratchily at first, then settling in for a 90-run stand for the second wicket. Kitchen was lured into a caught and bowled by Luke Woodcock on 43, but Nicol made sure of his own half-century in the 13th over, his 50 arriving off 32 balls. An asking rate of a run-a-ball by this stage was never enough to daunt Nicol and his new batting mate Craig Cachopa and they confidently closed it out with 3.1 overs to spare.