Wellington Firebirds need win to keep hopes alive

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 27/12/2013

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Worried about how low James Franklin bats in the Wellington Twenty20 order?

Plenty are, but Wellington cricket coach Jamie Siddons believes his logic defeats the traditional view of "get your best batsman in early".

Franklin is listed at No 4 or No 5 against Canterbury at the Basin Reserve today, but the number is as good as irrelevant as Wellington look to introduce him around the 10-over mark and then boss the game to the end.

Siddons wants to protect Franklin against the new ball, not that Franklin can't handle it. But it lessens the chance of him being victim to one that swings late or nips off the seam.

"We think he can dictate the game from 10 overs out," Siddons said.

"Ten overs in T20 is a lot of balls."

Siddons' plan, like any, can come unstuck. The top order can get knocked over or bat too deep at a run rate slower than Franklin would be expected to score at. But either way Wellington have a plan they believe in and wish to continue with.

Two wins from four is only a fair start to the T20 competition for last year's beaten finalists. They are home again on Sunday (against Otago), then finish the 10-round competition with four games on the road.

Wellington need to win this Christmas double-header, otherwise they are dicing with death.

They don't have their wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi, but Graham Napier has arrived to fill an import spot, and if he is anything like he used to be, will prove a useful acquisition.

If there is a wish over the next three days it is to get a good look at middle-order batsman Henry Walsh. He comes with quite a reputation but has had precious few opportunities to impress.

Wellington are an old team by domestic cricket standards and that means they give up runs in the field. But what they lose there they should make up with the ball, given their bowling lineup is an international one.

"We are not as young, fit or agile as some sides but you deal with what you are given," Siddons said.

It's a toss-up between Andy McKay and Dane Hutchinson for the last spot in Wellington's lineup. Canterbury welcomes back Brendon Diamanti, a New Zealand one-day representative four years ago.

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- The Dominion Post

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