Auckland began their quest for three successive Twenty20 HRV Cups in style tonight with a five-wicket win over an average Wellington at Westpac Stadium.
Coming off a comfortable opening round win over Canterbury, the Firebirds were never in it after Jesse Ryder (9) suffered his first failure of the season. Having been sent in to bat, the hosts posted an awful 116, which the Aces knocked off with 17 balls to spare amid some late speed wobbles under the floodlights.
Lou Vincent led the way, the former test opener hitting a breezy 45 off 46 balls. He and Brad Hodge (22), Auckland's one-game import, added 65 off eight overs for the first wicket to seize control.
Vincent quickly put the situation beyond doubt as he took to Firebirds speedster Shaun Tait, in game two of his cameo appearance before returning to Australia. He took 14 off Tait's first over, including a hooked six off his former team-mate at Zimbabwe's Mid-West Rhinos. Tait got some revenge, bowling Vincent with his penultimate delivery to end with 2-33, but it was too late.
Luke Woodcock (2-28) also bowled well and Andy McKay was sharp and accurate, but it required a monumental effort with the ball to defend that total.
Whilst the handful of paying punters braved the chill to see Ryder wield the willow, there was intrigue around how his fellow Wellington batsmen would fare if he missed out. He did, and they got such a shock they froze on the spot.
After dual Plunket Shield centuries then a matchwinning 90 a week ago, Ryder faced four deliveries which went 4, 4, 1, caught at cover off Mitchell McClenaghan's second ball. Powerfully built and nearing the 140kmh zone, McClenaghan was a handful and ended with an impressive 3-18.
The dry pitch offered some turn, and between Auckland's two decent left-arm quicks and a flurry of spin, the Firebirds had their wings clipped. Bruce Martin deceived key middle order men Luke Ronchi and Grant Elliott then part-time tweaker Hodge (3-16) chimed in to earn his paycheque, aided by some good fortune.
Woodcock had reason to look incredulous when given out lbw by umpire Barry Frost to one that he edged to backward point. But Wellington were well in the mire by then, and it was soon 60-7 when Harry Boam chopped on without scoring.
Australian import Cameron Borgas watched the carnage from the other end and blazed 50 off 43 balls with little support, aside from a few swishes from T20 debutant Scott Kuggeleijn as Wellington were dismissed off the final delivery of the innings.
WELLINGTON v AUCKLAND
At Westpac Stadium, Wellington (Twenty20)
J Ryder c Hakaraia b McClenaghan 9
M Pollard c Vincent b Bates 1
M Papps c Bates b McClenaghan 11
C Borgas c Cachopa b McClenaghan 50
L Ronchi b Martin 1
G Elliott st Hopkins b Martin 6
L Woodcock lbw b Hodge 3
H Boam b Hodge 0
S Kuggeleijn c Munro b Hodge 24
A McKay run out 5
S Tait not out 1
Extras (lb 4, wd 1) 5
Total (20 overs) 116
Fall: 1-10 (Pollard, 1.1), 2-16 (Ryder, 2.2), 3-27 (Papps, 4.2), 4-33 (Ronchi, 5.3), 5-52 (Elliott, 9.1), 6-60 (Woodcock, 11.1), 7-60 (Boam, 11.5), 8-97 (Kuggeleijn, 16.4), 9-113 (Borgas, 18.5), 10-116 (McKay, 19.6).
Bowling: B Singh 4-0-34-0, M Bates 4-0-18-1, M McClenaghan 4-0-18-3 (1w) B Martin 4-0-16-2, B Hodge 3-0-16-3, C Munro 1-0-10-0.
L Vincent b Tait 45
B Hodge c McKay b Woodcock 22
D Hakaraia b Tait 7
G Hopkins lbw b Woodcock 1
C Munro c Woodcock b Kuggeleijn 16
C de Grandhomme not out 6
C Cachopa not out 5
Extras (b 1, lb 6, wd 8) 15
Total (for 5 wickets, 17.1 overs) 117
Fall: 1-65 (Hodge, 7.6), 2-87 (Hakaraia, 11.3), 3-88 (Hopkins, 12.1), 4-98 (Vincent, 13.5), 5-105 (Munro, 14.5).
Bowling: S Kuggeleijn 3-0-17-1 (2w), S Tait 4-0-33-2 (2w), A McKay 3.1-0-13-0, L Woodcock 4-0-28-2 (3w), G Elliott 3-0-19-0.
Result: Auckland won by 5 wickets.
- Fairfax Media
Should the NZ selectors pick Jesse Ryder if he's available?