Wellington Firebirds batsmen need to fire up

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014

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Spin is in at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and also at Hamilton's Seddon Park for today's crunch match for Wellington in the national one-day competition.

The fifth-placed Firebirds have three 50-over matches remaining to revive their flatlining season, starting against frontrunners Northern Districts on their beloved home strip.

The sluggish, turning surface more akin to the subcontinent was a key weapon for the Knights in their T20 title, and Firebirds coach Jamie Siddons expects his batsmen to negotiate plenty of spin from test legspinner Ish Sodhi, offie Jono Boult and left-armer Mitchell Santner.

''The last wicket turned a lot and I don't expect anything different. They've got two or three good spinners. We've got 20 overs of spin [from Jeetan Patel and Luke Woodcock] but they've probably got 30 of it,'' Siddons said.

Sunday's washout in Dunedin was another bump in Wellington's frustrating summer, which suffered rain interference and, more recently, two dire batting performances in Palmerston North and Wellington, the latter against today's opponents Northern.

At least the two points for the washout means the Firebirds remain in contention for the top-four playoffs, two behind fourth-placed Central Districts who are proving equally hard to follow.

''We've just got to put it all together, which has been the story of our year. We just lacked the consistency in everything,'' Siddons said.

''This one's really crucial. We've got to play good cricket otherwise there's no point being in the comp. It'd be nice to take some momentum into the final two games [both at home against CD and Auckland].''

Siddons has named an unchanged 12, with captain James Franklin having recovered from his back spasms. If the pitch is as dry and spin-friendly as expected, Siddons is tempted to stack Firebird's batting which means paceman Andy McKay could miss out.

The Knights are without five Black Caps in Bangladesh and don't look much on paper but have won four straight and are in the box seat to remain at home for the playoff series.

Test gloveman Watling is out with a hamstring strain, giving Northland's Rory Christopherson a one-day debut.

Wellington's all-international bowling attack will back themselves to knock over Northern's line-up but the big question is around the Firebirds' batting which has fired only once, in a two-run victory over Otago.

Test legspinner Sodhi and Boult put the brakes on Wellington's batsmen last week after a top order collapse, making it vital for the top-three of Stephen Murdoch, Michael Papps and Grant Elliott to set a solid platform.

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In other round six matches, bottom-placed Otago host Auckland in Invercargill and the Stags host Canterbury in New Plymouth. Central are again without paceman Bevan Small (groin). Roald Badenhorst has been recalled.

- Fairfax Media

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