Do or die for Wellington Firebirds in T20 comp
Hand-wringing over a victory that got away isn't the formula for a healthy existence in this season's national Twenty20 cricket competition.
So it is for Wellington who reviewed their agonising one-run defeat to Otago on Wednesday night, then moved on with haste to their sudden death contest in Christchurch today. Beat Canterbury at Hagley Oval and they're into the top-three, so the Firebirds' number-crunchers tell them.
"I think that if we win we'll be OK. Going into the Otago game, if we'd won that then we were through. Otago might still have to win their last game, too. The only thing we can control is how we play [today]," Wellington batsman Grant Elliott said.
Lose today, though, and the Firebirds should be history and booting the dressing room walls after Wednesday's thriller at University Oval when they finished 203-4, chasing Otago's 204-3.
Elliott, unwanted for the ODI series against West Indies, blasted 70 off 42 balls and added what should have been a matchwinning 137 off 11.1 overs with his skipper James Franklin.
But with three required off three Jacob Duffy deliveries, Elliott chased a wide yorker and edged to gloveman Derek de Boorder. A few more centimetres and it would have flown to the boundary and clinched Wellington's fourth consecutive win, placing them in the box seat for automatic entry to the January 18 final.
Then, youngster Duffy bowled two tight deliveries to allrounder Graham Napier who could only manage a solitary leg bye. It left Otago, the defending champions, on top by four points.
"Duffy bowled a good over. He nailed his yorkers and he and [Neil] Wagner bowled pretty well," Elliott said.
"We reviewed it last night [Wednesday] and put it behind us. We're playing pretty good cricket; the batting unit are confident and we've chased down some big totals. Most teams have got must win games coming up."
The biggest issue for Wellington was conceding 47 runs from their last two overs, bowled by Napier and Dane Hutchinson against a rampant Ryan ten Doeschate. A lack of early wickets left them vulnerable, but after some accurate bowling in wins over Northern and Central there was no panic, Elliott said.
Five teams remain in contention for the top-three, with only winless Central Districts out of the equation for the second versus third playoff.
Wellington at least have a healthy net run rate and play their final game today, then await the result of fellow contenders Auckland and Northern Districts tonight. Three further matches remain and the final standings may not be known till Tuesday when the Firebirds may well be cheering Central on to upset Auckland.
Canterbury have won two from eight, and had four washouts. They went without imports this season, aside from recalling former Black Cap Brendon Diamanti. They remained in playoff contention with a 21-run win over Auckland on Sunday when Peter Fulton and Tom Latham led them to 201-6 at Hagley.
The Hagley pitch usually offers something for everyone; good pace and carry, and a hint of seam movement early on. The forecast is for fine weather.