The Wellington Firebirds converted their title-winning T20 form into one-day wondrousness as they got up to rob the Otago Volts by three wickets at University of Otago Oval, in ROUND ONE Ford Trophy 15 January 2017
How it happened
• Hamish Marshall got his first job right as new Firebirds Ford Trophy captain — on debut for the side after 100 matches for ND, winning the toss to send the Volts in.
• The Volts were fronting the order with two local Dunedin lads on show — captain Hamish Rutherford and debutant Gregor Croudis, facing the most experienced attack in New Zealand, led by the evergreen and ever hungry Brent Arnel and his fired up lieutenant big Hamish Bennett.
• It was a tough start and it wasn’t going to be the openers’ day, Rutherford and Croudis both gone inside the first eight overs. Brad Wilson joined them shortly after, trapped by Jeetan Patel.
• But the Volts recovered from that rocky start to post not one, not two, not three, but FOUR half centuries as they collectively rose up to get a defendable tally on the board (or so they thought).
• Jimmy Neesham top-scored with 65 off 56 and Anaru Kitchen started a solid all-round day with 60 off 63 (he would go on take a career best four wickets) to resuscitate the Volts’ innings with a 115-run stand for the fourth wicket.
• Then Michael Bracewell slammed 51 to add to the good work from the middle order. All of that paved the way for Christi Viljoen, batting at nine, to slam his fifth List A half century off just 37 balls, on Ford Trophy debut — Viljoen having played all his previous 65 List A matches for Namibia before a two-year stand-down period that let him play for the Volts. Worth the wait.
• For the Firebirds, the wicket-taking work had been done by Anurag Verma and Arnel, each going onto three-fas, Verma’s 3-46 off 10 the most economical of the seven bowlers employed.
• He was set to have a good allround day, too — later grabbing an unbeaten 42, the ex-ND man’s highest score for the Firebirds; his career best being 58 for ND.
• To put the magnitude of the Firebirds' target in Dunedin in context, when the Volts were all out for 302 — Viljoen was run out on the last ball of the innings — they had equalled their third-highest List A score ever on Uni Oval. So it wasn’t going to be easy, and WASP was content to have the Firebirds’ chances of winning at one per cent for much of the chase.
• It didn’t start well at all, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch and England international allrounder Scott Borthwick (on Ford Trophy debut) all gone for single-figure scores inside the first seven overs
• Newly minted BLACKCAP Tom Blundell always shaped as an important wicket, though, and it took a brilliant side-on shy from Brad Wilson to get rid of him. The runout took the Birds to 89 for five in the 19th over — still not the stuff that wins are made of. Or so you’d think. Most of us were agreeing with WASP: not a show!
• But one per cent is still a chance, isn’t it. The Firebirds thought so as veteran and former top order man Luke Woodcock once again showed his immense value coming in down the order, reaching 92 off 108 to get some solidity and put the Wellingtonians right back in it.
• At the other end, McDonald’s Super Smash Grand Final hero Matt Taylor provided the run rate injection, blasting 56 off 38 as the Firebirds began to make canny Volts supporters nervous. Bruce Edgar's master plan was unfolding yet again.
• Bradley Scott stopped Taylor’s bomb show on 56 — he had hit all of his boundaries in sixes, seven of them in all.
• Then off-spinner Kitchen struck another big blow when he trapped Woodcock with a pearler in the 44th over, the Firebirds seven down needing another 47 runs. Kitchen would end his 10 overs with a career best 4-49 to top his good day on the personal front, just not with the result he had in mind for his team
• The problem for the Volts was the depth and bottle in the Firebirds’ tail. Verma’s unbeaten 42 off 50 balls — alongside a whirlwind, 12-ball 25 from Jeetan Patel — sealed the deal, and made it look easier than it really was during most of the match
• The super experienced Wellington Firebirds had picked up right where they off in McDonald’s Super Smash, nailing a tense and exciting away chase to get up and over a good score of 302 with a whole 11 balls in hand. Respect.
The Volts have now jumped on a plane to Auckland to go up against early leaders the Aces on Wednesday. Game on at Eden Park Outer Oval from 11am, with entry by gold coin donation at the gate.
The Firebirds are meanwhile off to sunny Napier to play the Central Stags at McLean Park in a McDonald’s Super Smash Grand Final rematch. The Stags will be up for that! Tickets at the gate on game day.