Wellington cricket celebrate triumphant season

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Jan 2020, 11:38AM
Wellington Blaze celebrates after their victory. (Photo / Photosport)

Wellington cricket celebrate triumphant season

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Jan 2020, 11:38AM

The Wellington Blaze have completed the perfect season in the Twenty20 Super Smash, highlighting a brilliant day for Wellington cricket.

The Blaze completed a campaign which saw them win all 10 of their regular season fixtures with a dominant display in a rain-shortened final, raising the trophy for the third consecutive season.

Hours later, the Firebirds claimed the men's title for the Wellington region as well, with both sides toppling Auckland opponents in the double-header finale at the Basin Reserve to send local fans home happy.

The Blaze's victory was expected, with newly-installed White Ferns captain Sophie Devine again starring in the match which was reduced to seven overs a-side.

Devine smacked 54 from 23 balls to drive the hosts to a daunting 81-2 from their allotment, with one Anna Peterson over going for 21 as Devine smoked four fours and five sixes.

Auckland were always going to struggle in response, with none of their batters managing to get going against the restrictive Blaze bowlers, and only three boundaries mustered.

Devine again set the platform, bowling the first over of the innings and conceding only five runs, while White Ferns spin twins Amelia Kerr (2-0-9-0) and Leigh Kasperek (1-0-4-2) were even better as the hosts cruised to a dominant 36-run victory, and an even-more dominant title.

More surprising was the success of the Wellington men later in the evening, as they held off a Black Caps-laden Auckland batting lineup to clinch a 22-run win.

The Firebirds were top qualifiers, but that meant little given the tightness of the competition, with every team having lost either four or five games during the regular season.

However, they had the talents of Devon Conway at the top of the order, and the future Black Cap again delivered, setting up the innings with 49 from 37 balls. He received handy cameos from Tom Blundell (25 from 21), Jimmy Neesham (22 from 13) and Michael Bracewell (23 not out from 17), before Logan van Beek (15 not out from eight) waved the willow at the end of the innings as the hosts reached 168-7.

Given Auckland's talent-laden top order, Wellington couldn't be sure it was a winning total, as Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman lay in wait, but in the end, only Guptill played a major hand as Wellington executed their bowling plans superbly.

Munro (nine from eight), Phillips (seven from seven) and Chapman (eight from 10) all failed to fire as they were tied down, with every Wellington bowler contributing. Re-called Black Caps seamer Hamish Bennett took 3-34, while van Beek claimed 3-28, and young prospect Rachin Ravindra leaked only 23 runs from his four tidy overs.

With Craig Cachopa (25 from 19) being the only other Auckland batsman to pass 10, it was all left down to Guptill, but even he couldn't find his usual destructive form as wickets fell at the other end. His eventual 60 took 53 balls to compile, and when Bennett made the big breakthrough, Auckland were left needing a miracle.

They had produced one in the preliminary final to stun Otago, but there wouldn't be a repeat display, as Wellington held to complete an impressive victory, and a brilliant day for cricket in the capital.