Firebirds snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 21:27 26/03/2014

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Over to you, James Franklin.

The Wellington captain's blunt assessment of today's Basin Reserve choke against Auckland can't be printed, but the words "monumental" and "up" featured prominently.

About the only positive to draw from their five-run defeat, chasing 303, is that it didn't end their one-day campaign. But the last rites can't be far off as they eye the steep task of three away victories to snare the title.

Wellington surrendered home advantage to Auckland for Sunday's sudden-death semifinal at Eden Park, and it will be season over if they repeat such jitters with victory beckoning. From 277-4 in the 46th over and Franklin and Grant Elliott in command, Wellington lost 5-19 in 26 balls.

Certainly, home coach Jamie Siddons looked like he could barely contain the steam rising from his ears and the dressing room debrief promised to be high-decibel.

Said Franklin: "We've just blown that. Guys have shown no composure at the end and Grant [Elliott] and myself are really to blame for not seeing the side home. We put the lower order under pressure. If you look through the batting card, the top order got starts and had chances themselves to win the game for us and none of them took it. Pretty frustrating."

Franklin (55 off 47) drove uppishly to cover then Elliott (39 off 37) lofted to long on three balls later, with an elementary 22 required off four overs.

Then the Keystone Cops moments began; Matt Taylor run out in a yes, no, sorry with Luke Woodcock, and Jeetan Patel caught short by a swooping Colin de Grandhomme and colliding with bowler Matt Quinn in the process.

De Grandhomme had a whale of a game, blasting 84 off 53 in Auckland's 302-9, then taking 4-48 with his medium pacers. Wellington required 11 off the final over from de Grandhomme, with Woodcock and Mark Gillespie at the crease, but it was too steep and Auckland were too composed.

Franklin felt 300 was a par total on the used pitch that played better than last Sunday, hence his annoyance they couldn't get home. But, having strung together two good wins before that, he hoped this was a blip rather than a blowout heading into another likely high scoring contest in Auckland.

"We're not playing bad cricket but we stuffed that up. Everything about today was pretty good apart from that last six overs. We just need to go up there and return the favour."

Canterbury snatched top spot and will host Northern Districts in Sunday's major semifinal, after they trounced the Knights by six wickets at Hagley Oval. Paceman Ryan McCone's 6-19 helped skittle the visitors for 119.

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Bottom-placed Central Districts' poor season ended with a 106-run hiding from Otago, after Jesse Ryder hit 96 off 69 balls.

- Wellington

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