They’re adamant they haven’t even mentioned the fact in team chats that they’re the defending Burger King Super Smash champions, but the Wellington Firebirds certainly gave the rest of us a quick reminder with a smashing away win over the Knights — opening their campaign in commanding style under lights in the Tron last night.
Sure, there’s no Grant Elliott or Michael Pollard now, but they’ve got super-popular Nottinghamshire star Samit Patel who was a key man in Notts's huge NatWest T20 Blast win in England this year, and he fronted up straightaway for his new ,adopted teammates on this side of the planet.
Experienced Patel’s also a former England international who can do the bizzo with both bat and ball under pressure and, ironically, he was going head to head in that department first up at Seddon Park against his new good friend and 2017 Notts teammate, Knight Ish Sodhi. in order to get the W for his new side.
Sodhi had a personal blinder with a fighting knock at the death, smashing the ball big as he and Daryl Mitchell (32 not out) set a new seventh wicket record for the men in pink.
They had to, however; for by the time they came together those pink backs were hard against the wall with the asking rate shooting up in the double figures.
Earlier, Sodhi had gone for just 21 off his four overs, a fine effort from the fizzed up leggie, but not enough to stop the pumped Firebirds bashing their way to 175 for five.
Volt-turned-Bird Michael Bracewell, the man they call the “Beast” on account of his hulking build, and also one of the famous cricketing extended family, looked back to his best with a fearless unbeaten 56 off just 28 balls, sending the ball to all parts with his special combination of creative strokeplay, clean contact and brute power.
Bracewell smashed three sixes in his knock to get the side up to 176, a decent score on Seddon Park where there was a bit in it for the spinners, Sodhi extracting the best of it for his captain Daniel Flynn who had sent the Birds in.
Sodhi’s solid all-round performance was capped by his new domestic T20 career best of 51 from just 36 balls batting at eight, but a 32-run first round loss took the gloss off all the statchat.
Earlier, former Knight Hamish Marshall got the Firebirds off to a brilliant start, three sixes and four boundaries at the top racing him to 48 off 29 balls — and that start was key because the Knights had plenty of bowling firepower.
For the Firebirds, containment was key and master off-spinner Jeetan Patel, a super-fit Hamish Bennett (2-18) and another former Knight in Anurag Verma — who absolutely loves bowling at Seddon Park (3-37) — did the job handsomely.
With Round Two happening tonight after a quick trip across the Kaimais to Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval — it’s the first ever match under lights at the showcase ground — the Knights know they need to spring back quickly against the unbeaten Auckland Aces; it should be a cracker so if you can’t be there to see history made tonight, make sure you catch it live in SKY Sport from 7.10pm!