The Wellington Firebirds have progressed to the Ford Trophy final after edging the Central Stags in a low-scoring contest which came down to the wire.
Chasing 248 to win, the Wellington Firebirds reached the target with three balls and five wickets to spare, Luke Woodcock and Matt Taylor seeing them over the line.
They will take on Canterbury in the final, in what will be the two sides’ third clash in 11 days, having split the two recent encounters.
How it happened
• Wellington's summer finally coming to the party, the Firebirds won the toss and decided to insert Central into bat on a slowish deck. The Stags’ potent line-up was missing Tom Bruce and Ben Wheeler due to international duty, but still packed a punch.
• In what was to be a trend throughout the match, the Stags started slowly. It took openers George Worker and Ben Smith 10 overs to find the boundary, Brent Arnel proving especially hard to get away in his opening spell, conceding just eight from his first six overs.
• Smith was tied down, and he was eventually bowled swiping at a delivery from Anurag Verma. Jesse Ryder hit some trademark boundaries but went he departed for 24, the Stags were at 76/2 after 21 overs, and needing a scoring boost.
• They found that from Will Young, who joined the steady Worker to compile a century stand. Young made 57 from 60 balls, and helped guide his team to a handy platform, sitting at 176/2 with 11 overs to go.
• However, the trademark six-hitting of the Stags' middle order stuttered, Young’s departure followed three balls later by that of Dane Cleaver, who was brilliantly run out by Firebirds import Scott Borthwick. Worker’s resistance ended quickly after, for 85 from 118 balls, and wickets suddenly started to fall in clumps as Verma claimed the scalp of the powerful Kieran Noema-Barnett for a duck.
• That left 20-year-old hitting prodigy Josh Clarkson with a lot of work to do, and while he hit six boundaries in a quickfire 33-ball 42, he didn’t get much support from his tail.
• The Wellington seamers were executing terrifically, with Arnel (0-31) restricting, and Hamish Bennett (2-39) and Verma (4-49) taking the bulk of the wickets as Central finished at 247 all out, in a respectable but seemingly below-par score.
• It was a score that seemed more challenging when the Firebirds took 15 balls to get off the mark. Michael Papps managed just one run in his first 18 deliveries, while Borthwick was dismissed for just one from 12 balls as the Stags' opening bowling pair of Seth Rance and Blair Tickner tightened the screws.
• Hamish Marshall was in no mood to muck around on his 38th birthday though, bashing a quickfire 37 from 27 balls, but he became Tickner’s second victim as the Firebirds struggled to put partnerships together.
• Tom Blundell (21) and Michael Pollard (24) both got starts but fell just as they started to find a rhythm, while at the other end Papps was still struggling to raise his strike rate above 60.
• Papps brought up his 50 from 93 balls, and started to accelerate as the run rate rose, to a stage where the Firebirds needed 77 runs from the last 10 overs. Papps couldn’t see out his slog, stumped by Dane Cleaver off Ajaz Patel for 80 off 124 balls, and leaving the task to the last two recognised batsmen – Woodcock and Taylor.
• The pair played safely, and exploited the shortened boundaries when the opportunity arose to get within 35 runs with four overs to go. Noema-Barnett went for 10 from the 47th over, but Rance tied it back with just six coming from the following over, and Wellington still required 19 from 12.
• Tickner (2-39) still had an over remaining, but Young turned to Noema-Barnett, who was subsequently hoiked for six by Woodcock. Only seven were required from Rance’s final offerings, and four byes off the first ball dented CD’s hopes, and two balls later Taylor cut through point to send Wellington into the final.
The final takes place this Saturday at Mainpower Oval in Rangiora, getting underway at 11.00am and showcased live on SKY SPORT.