A nine-wicket win was just what the Firebirds ordered. PHOTOSPORT

Firebirds stay alive!

A superb stand between Michael Papps and Tom Blundell kept the Wellington Firebirds in the McDonald’s Super Smash playoff hunt.

The pair added an unbroken 126 for the second wicket to lift their side to a nine-wicket win over the Knights at Seddon Park.

The victory vaults the Firebirds into third on the ladder for the time being, a position in which they can remain if other results go their way this weekend.

The Firebirds were looking an unlikely chance to make the playoffs just two games ago, but improved showings from their top order batsmen have seen them surge up the ladder.

After Hamish Marshall guided them to a win against the Volts on Wednesday, tonight it was Papps and Blundell who stood up, both making their highest T20 scores in an excellent display.

Dangerous Tom Blundell. PHOTOSPORT

And, it had been a challenging chase for the Firebirds, set 176 to win following another classy showing from the Knights' top order.

Once again, the pairing of Dean Brownlie and BJ Watling set a solid platform, Brownlie making 35 from 26 balls as the duo combined for a first-wicket partnership of 55.

Watling became the first player in McDonald's Super Smash history to record three consecutive fifties as he struck nine fours in his 58 from 48, sharing in another big stand with Corey Anderson.

Anderson was the star of the innings, making his highest McDonald's Super Smash score as he bashed an unbeaten 71 from just 42 deliveries, and fielding superbly.

His 11 boundaries included five sixes – one of which was the biggest seen at the ground this competition as he sent an Anurag Verma delivery well back onto the mid-wicket embankment, a shot SKY commentators reckoned was as high as the light towers.

With one runout, only Grant Elliott (1-22 from four) was successful with the ball as the Knights ended with just two wickets lost.

Unfortunately for Knights fans, wickets were a rarity throughout the whole game as smooth, steady batsmanship controlled proceedings.

The Firebirds got off to a quick start, but the loss of Marshall in the fifth over saw the required run rate rise as Scott Kuggeleijn and the Knights spinners turned the screws.

Blundell survived a big appeal for what looked like a gloved delivery through to Tim Seifert behind the stumps, but that life saw him burst into gear.

He provided the impetus in the middle overs to put the Firebirds back in front, making a nice unbeaten 69 from 43 balls and putting Daryl Mitchell and Trent Lawford on the receiving end of some fine shots.

Papps continued to compile at the other end before accelerating at a vital stage. Needing 31 from 21 balls, and struggling to score off Jono Boult, Papps smoked 14 runs from three balls to seal the match.

He finished unbeaten on 80 from 59 balls for the Firebirds, who play the Volts on Tuesday at the Basin in what could be a playoff-deciding encounter. The Knights remain in second, but will now need to beat the Canterbury Kings when they visit on Monday, and hope that the competition-leading Central Stags can help them out by winning their remaining contests.

A tense and exciting finish to the season is in store!


Points table

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