The bitter taste is not going to last long for the Wellington cricket team.
They know they saved some of the worst cricket for yesterday's domestic Twenty20 final. But, helped by a beer or two, Firebirds captain Michael Papps reckoned his team would soon feel pretty good about themselves again, despite yesterday's four-wicket loss to Otago.
Wellington did not get enough runs, after reverting to some bad habits in the early overs. Past masters at falling two or three wickets down inside the six-over power play, the Firebirds largely rectified that this season.
But three wickets were lost inside the first six overs yesterday, plus two more in the seventh, meaning their eventual total of 143 for nine was not a bad effort from there.
Even if it was never really going to be enough.
"We wanted to just keep playing the way we have all season, but obviously we got off to a bad start. There were probably a couple of bad shots in there and the whole thing was especially disappointing given top-order batting has been a real strength of ours," Papps said.
Jesse Ryder began as only he can, belting Jacob Duffy for 16 from the first over of the match. But the recalled Michael Pollard then went first ball, before Papps tried an optimistic pull shot off James Fuller.
Cameron Borgas nicked out to Duffy, trying to cut a ball that was too full and too straight, to match the ducks scored by Pollard and Papps. Ryder then skied Ian Butler's first ball and when Michael Bracewell took the catch Wellington's day was effectively over.
Papps was full of praise for the way Luke Woodcock (40 not out) and Harry Boam (35) stemmed the flow of wickets. But while it provided the Firebirds' bowlers with at least something to bowl at, 143 was always about 25 runs short of a competitive total on a small ground like University Oval.
"With a total like that you've got to bowl and field as well as you possibly can," Papps said.
"I thought our bowling was really good, particularly early on. Maybe if we'd taken a couple of little half-chances, things might have been different because the way Ili [Tugaga] and Mark Houghton started with the ball was outstanding.
"We kept ourselves in the match and kept getting a sniff here and there, but we probably couldn't get enough scoreboard pressure to ever really get in front."
Otago had been eight for two at one point, before Neil Broom and Derek de Boorder put on 71 for the third wicket. Wellington continued to chip guys out at regular intervals, but simply ran out of runs to play with.
The consolation for Papps is that he is sure there'll be other finals.
"Obviously we're massively disappointed with today's result. It wasn't what we wanted and we would probably have liked to play better, but we're not focusing on that to be honest.
"We know that Otago is a very good side and are very hard to beat and, when we step back a bit, I think we should be proud of what we've achieved.
"Individually some guys have really stood up or shown improvement and that's positive," Papps said.
"We weren't quite there today, but we can still be proud."
He pointed out that Wellington are also still in the hunt for the Plunket Shield title, while their bold showing in the shortest form of the game augurs well for the one-day competition which starts in just over a month's time.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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