Firebirds return to winning ways
The Wellington Firebirds were yesterday back to their winning ways with a one-sided 53-run victory over the Central Stags in the HRV Cup at the Basin Reserve.
After the Stags won the toss and sent them in, the Firebirds' Bangladeshi import Tamim Iqbal got his side off to a flying start by blasting 29 runs off the first three overs - leaving fellow opening batsman Jesse Ryder to largely stand and watch.
Iqbal launched into Nelson left-arm spinner Marty Kain's third delivery of the day with a six that struck a passing taxi on Kent Tce, and although he found the hands of Jamie How in the deep just two balls later, his quick-fire 35 off 20 set the tone for an aggressive batting performance by Wellington.
Now that he was finally allowed the strike, Jesse Ryder immediately picked up the reins and smashed young quick Adam Milne for three sixes in Milne's first over, which went for an uncharacteristic 24. Kain also came under the hammer with Ryder plundering two sixes over the short boundary to race to the brink of a 50.
The Firebirds' 100 was posted in just the 8th over, but the belligerent Ryder was denied his half-century by wily English import Peter Trego, the right-armer expertly mixing his length and pace to deceive Ryder with a slower ball. Ryder was gone for 47 off 22, but despite Trego's best efforts at damage control, and some impressive economy from Zimbabwean right-armer Kyle Jarvis towards the end of the innings, the Stags seemed unable to stop the Firebirds from going on the run rampage.
English import Chris Woakes took them through to the final over with an unbeaten 55 off 29 deliveries, supported by captain Grant Elliott who made 35 off 18 before being bowled by Milne on the penultimate ball of the innings.
The match had been reduced to 18 overs due to a rain-delayed start, but the Firebirds' total - 213 for 5 - would have been impressive even in a full twenty-over match. It was just one run short of being the highest total yet of the season - that honour already belonging to the Firebirds for their 214 for 5 (in 20 overs) against the same team at Napier on December 7.
Despite an aggressive start from Mathew Sinclair, the Stags simply couldn't keep pace with a required run rate that was already a shade under 12 when they began their reply, with perhaps the most remarkable moment of the innings coming when Harry Boam was taken out of the attack by his skipper, despite being on a hat-trick.
Whilst the Firebirds continue their Jekyll and Hyde season with two losses and, now, three wins, there is no doubting their form in this match sets up an intriguing battle with the defending champions, the Auckland Aces, tomorrow night at Eden Park. Meanwhile this afternoonthe Canterbury Wizards meet the Otago Volts in Timaru.