Firebirds blown away as playoff hopes plummet

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 11/01/2014
Michael Papps
Photosport

SPUN OUT: Wellington opener Michael Papps is bowled by Rob Nicol for 14 during their eight-wicket defeat to Canterbury in Christchurch.

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That helpless feeling endures for Wellington in the national Twenty20 cricket competition.

After watching the white ball fly all over Hagley Oval from Canterbury's batsmen last night, all that's left for the Firebirds is to cross their fingers for a few results to go their way to sneak into the top-three.

"Our odds aren't looking that great," a mournful captain James Franklin said from the visitors' dressing room.

Two days after an agonising one-run defeat to Otago, chasing 205, Wellington were flightless as they plummeted to an eight-wicket defeat to Canterbury. The hosts cantered to their target of 155 with 33 balls to spare thanks to forgotten international Dean Brownlie who smoked an unbeaten 86 off 36 balls.

"We were probably 15-20 runs light [scoring 154 for six after winning the toss] then our bowling was near on dreadful," Franklin said.

"We were outgunned and outplayed by a better team on the day. Dean Brownlie was sensational. He played a brute of an innings."

What a difference a few days can make in Twenty20. On Wednesday, Wellington were top of the table and eyeing their fourth straight win; now their season appears over.

They remain just four points off the lead but other teams have matches in hand. Wellington's best case scenario is some weekend results going their way then winless Central Districts upsetting Auckland on Tuesday, which could let the Firebirds sneak into the second versus third playoff next Friday in Hamilton.

Not that they deserve it on their last two efforts with the ball.

"It's just two really average bowling performances in a row. We stuffed up that game in Dunedin and when we had no right to win it we gave ourselves a chance," Franklin said.

Yesterday Wellington's innings hit the speed wobbles with three quick wickets against Canterbury's spinners Rob Nicol and Ronnie Hira, including Wednesday's topscorer Grant Elliott for three. Franklin smashed 43 off 26 balls but the innings never really got going.

Import Graham Napier removed Nicol cheaply but that was the end of it. Brownlie and George Worker (53) added 119 off 10 overs, clubbing eight sixes between them. No bowler was spared and Wellington were left trying to take the game as deep as possible to stop the damage to their net run rate which was healthy, before dipping into the negatives yesterday.

The Firebirds will rue Wednesday's defeat for some time.

After being blasted for 204 for three, they recovered via Franklin and Elliott to need 11 off 11 balls, before youngster Jacob Duffy delivered a cool final over and they only got one leg bye off the last three deliveries.

Had they won that, they'd already in the finals. Now a second successive trip to the T20 decider is a distant dream.

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- The Dominion Post

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