It was a head-to-head, top-of-the-table clash to decide who would be the top Ford Trophy qualifier. Would the Firebirds fly higher than Canterbury?
How it happened
Andrew Ellis won the toss at Hagley Oval and batted, the hosts getting off to a solid start overall despite Brent Arnel (3-45) prising apart the opening partnership with an early wicket.
It simply brought BLACKCAPS Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls together again for a 60-run second wicket stand to build the Canterbury platform.
When Latham was stumped on 38, he became the first of four wickets for Luke Woodcock, who would go on to claim his 100th List A wicket when he trapped Peter Fulton after his run-a-ball 43. But by then the strong Canterbury order had a good grip at 137 for three, Henry Nicholls still there and looking to finish the last 20 overs.
But Nicholls would be Woodcock’s next victim in his following over, gone for 64 as the veteran off-spinner hurtled towards a haul of 4-50 with Todd Astle caught as well.
Handy Canterbury part-timer Cole McConchie then stepped in and belted his maiden Ford Trophy half century, unbeaten and at run-a-ball pace, to get his team up to a defendable 246 for nine.
Firebirds captain Hamish Marshall then held the response together with his crucial 108 from 100 balls, a wise old head as other wickets clattered around him and Todd Astle ripped through the early wickets on his home turf, Tom Blundell and Luke Ronchi both trapped by the leggie after brief starts.
From 2/1 to 211/7, nothing looked certain for the Birds throughout but, not for the first time this season, Matt Taylor smacked an unbeaten 48 off 53 balls to guide the leaders to safety, a two-wicket win with 11 balls to spare.
Despite finishing top of the pops after the completion of eight rounds, the Firebirds had to cede their hosting rights for the 1v2 playoff to second qualifier Canterbury due to the unavailability this weekend of the Basin Reserve, so they will all be back at Hagley Oval to do it all again from 11am this Saturday.