Wizards book finals passage

A 70-run victory at Hagley Oval in Christchurch represented their fifth win in nine outings and confirmed their presence in the title decider with one regular season match remaining.

Ironically, that is against the defending champion and competition-leading Auckland Aces on Tuesday, in what will be a final dress rehearsal for both teams.

The Wizards fired up with the bat on their home ground, a sparkling effort of 193 for three proving too much for the last-placed Firebirds, whose disappointing campaign continued as they were dismissed for 123 in 17 overs.

Robust fast bowler Mitchell Claydon was the standout with the ball, his three for eight off three overs representing an outstanding return and only slightly superior to the three for 13 off three earned by seamer Yasir Arafat.

The Wizards total was built around three partnerships as all of their top order got among the runs.

Rob Nicol and George Worker got the ball rolling with an opening stand of 62 in 7.1 overs before Nicol was run out for a robust 48 off 30 balls, a forthright knock which featured six fours and three sixes after he teed off early.

Worker, who finished unbeaten on 55 off 45 as he anchored the innings – if any such thing exists in the abbreviated format of the game - then put on 68 for the second wicket with his captain Peter Fulton.

Fulton’s share was 38 off 29, with two sixes, before Dean Brownlie chipped in with 24 off 12 as the Firebirds bowlers were given no respite.

Of the seven visiting bowlers used the only one to escape punishment was offspinner Jeetan Patel, who collected one for 18 off his full allocation of four overs.

The Firebirds lacked firepower with the bat and they were not helped by a misfiring top order as they quickly slid to 29 for three in response.

Skipper Grant Elliott and James Franklin endeavoured to paper over the cracks in a stand of 79 but once they were parted the resistance was minimal and the end came quickly as the last six wickets tumbled for 10 runs.

Elliott at least had the satisfaction of scoring 51 off 32, peppered with four sixes and three fours, before being run out by the opposite Peter Fulton, while Franklin made 28 off 24.


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