Grant Elliot offered no excuses, after his Wellington team's nine-wicket loss to Northern Districts last night.
A score of 197 for four ought to have been plenty, batting first. Instead, Elliott felt the Firebirds' bowlers didn't perform remotely well enough and ND coasted to 200 for one, to win with an over to spare at Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval.
In doing so, the Knights pulled four points clear at the top of the Twenty20 standings, with Otago and Wellington heading the chasing pack.
"I am disappointed with the bowling effort today," Elliott said afterwards.
"You get 190 and you feel like you want to defend that. Then you walk off after the match and think ‘maybe we should've scored 210'.
"But it was all about execution. We just didn't execute well enough with the ball today."
Elliott was quick to point out that Bay Oval is not the easiest ground to defend on, harking back to the pre-season games Wellington and ND played there in which Jesse Ryder and Michael Papps scored 36 and 40-ball hundreds respectively.
With one short boundary and a strong breeze coming off the sea, ND were able to hoick the ball to and over the rope on a regular basis yesterday
Left-hander Anton Devcich hit the winning runs, to finish 92 not out, after he and Brad Wilson had posted 165 for the first wicket. With ND having a left and right-hand combination in, Elliott felt Wellington were limited in terms of bowling options, which was why he, Luke Woodcock and Harry Boam were not used.
The wicket was too true for bowlers of their ilk, Elliott said, meaning he relied on his four quicks to bowl yorkers, with the variation coming from Mark Houghton's left-arm orthodox.
None of the faster bowlers hit the blockhole consistently enough, leading to some unflattering figures. Scott Kuggeleijn went for 43 in three overs and Dimitri Mascarenhas and Dane Hutchinson both went at more than 10s.
But, as Elliott remarked, that's the nature of Twenty20 cricket and the Firebirds are still well placed to win their first trophy of any sort, for nearly nine seasons.
They meet Canterbury on Sunday, who beat Central Districts by four wickets yesterday to register their first win of the season, before hosting Otago and ND on January 11 and 13.
"Hopefully we can get the next three in the bag and then hopefully [have] a home final," Elliott said.
Wellington certainly have the batting to achieve that. Ryder again provided the impetus, making a 37-ball 62.
Tamim Iqbal chimed in with 68 off 49, before Elliott and Mascarenhas finished the innings off in some style - each clubbing 21 from nine.
Ryder continues to produce phenomenal form, which is exactly what you need from an opening batsman. Martin Guptill did similarly for Auckland last summer, as they clinched the title, and Elliott finds it amusing that people dismiss Wellington as a one-man band.
"Everyone's been calling it the Ryder Firebirds, but it wasn't the Guptill Aces last year."
- The Dominion Post
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