Wellington Firebirds lead competition after win
The Wellington Firebirds climbed to the top of the domestic Twenty20 competition with victory over the Northern Knights at Mount Maunganui today.
Chasing 146 for victory, the hosts rarely looked like getting home and finished their 20 overs at 124-9. The win took the visitors to 20 points from eight matches to give them a small advantage at the top of the competition.
The leading side at the end of 10 round-robin matches goes directly into the HRV Twenty20 final to be played at Hamilton's Seddon Park on January 18 while the second and third-placed teams play off for a spot in the final at the same venue the previous evening.
Wellington put the pressure on the hosts by reaching 145 for six off their 20 overs after their captain James Franklin won the toss and chose to bat on the same Bay Oval wicket that saw Northern lose a low-scoring encounter against the Canterbury Wizards on Tuesday.
Some dreadful fielding marred Northern's stint in the field, with simple catches being shelled allowing Wellington to build a taxing target.
Stephen Murdoch and Franklin provided the bulk of the runs for the Firebirds, putting on 90 for the fourth wicket.
Murdoch (57) rode his luck at times, offering a couple of chances, but struck five fours and a six off 46 balls before being run out. Franklin, as usual, rarely looked hurried but produced some long hitting while also benefiting from two dropped catches. He perished in the final over for 46, compiled from just 35 balls and featuring three sixes.
Knights skipper Daniel Flynn used seven bowlers in an attempt to restrict the visitors' total, with off-spinner Jono Boult again the pick with 1-21 off his four overs.
The hosts lost wickets at the top of the order at regular intervals, tumbling to 39-4 when BJ Watling and Daniel Flynn fell in successive balls at the start of the seventh over. Watling was trapped lbw by former team-mate Brent Arnel before Flynn was the victim of a run out as Scott Styris looked to get off the mark to the first ball he faced.
Styris (29 off 29 balls) and Daryl Mitchell (31 off 31 deliveries) added 54 for the fifth wicket in reasonable time but when Stryris holed out to cover off left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock in the 16th over the Firebirds undeniably held the ascendancy.
They weren't troubled in the latter stages, with the Knights only able to manage 12 boundaries - and not a single six - in their reply.
English import Graham Napier shone with the ball, taking 3-18 off his full complement of four overs while Woodcock proved exceedingly tough to get away, finishing with 1-19 off his four.
The back-to-back defeats at Bay Oval has put the pressure on early competition Northern to make the finals at their home venue. They have 16 points from seven games, level with the Auckland Aces, who have played one game less, and tied with the defending champion Otago Volts (16 from seven games).
- Fairfax Media
Should Brendon McCullum open for the Black Caps?