Firebirds burn their way to title in Hamilton

Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds 186-6 (Michael Pollard 76, Grant Elliott 40, Tarun Nethula 2-30) beat Mondiale Auckland Aces 180-9 (Craig Cachopa 37, Jeetan Patel 1-13) by six runs. 

The Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds have won the inaugural Georgie Pie Super Smash and booked themselves a trip 2015 Champions League, winning their first Twenty20 title with a strong performance with the bat and ball in Hamilton. It wasn't certain until the very last over, with Mondiale Auckland Aces needing 14 from the 50th over to snatch it, but with numbers ten and eleven at the crease, the Firebirds closed it out to win by six runs, adding the Twenty20 silverware to their Ford Trophy title won just a few months ago.

Scorecard

The Firebirds were inserted by the Aces, and built their total on opener Michael Pollard's 76 from 56 balls, an innings that included three fours and thee booming sixes into the crowd. He maintained a high tempo throughout before being fooled in the air by a Tarun Nethula special, getting stumped by Brad Cachopa in the 17th over.

The Aces stamped out the threats of Michael Papps (1), Stephen Murdoch (12) and Brad Hodge (2) cheaply, but it was their veterans who helped them post a formidable total at the death. James Franklin was dropped twice, a tricky return catch to Colin de Grandhomme when on four, then Matt Quinn lost sight of a high ball at square leg in the next over - he made the Aces pay with a series of booming sixes, before Rob Nicol removed him for 31 from 17 balls. 

At the other end, Grant Elliott was using his wide batting stance effectively to clobber 40 from 17 balls, helping lift the Firebirds to 186-6 from their twenty overs.

In reply, the Aces got off to a fast start, with Luke Wright and Rob Nicol finding the rope regularly before Wright dragged on to Dane Hutchison for 21 from 13, and Rob Nicol offered a simple catch to Hodge from Jeetan Patel for 23. 

Craig Cachopa looked the most likely to lead the charge and was well on his way, peppering the leg side boundary before being well caught by Brent Arnel at backward point for 37.  

When de Grandhomme lost his wicket at 4-125 in the 14th over the Aces were well in the hunt, but they lost their next four wickets for just 31 runs to rob the chase of the momentum required towards the finish.

It was left to the tail enders to try and get 25 from the last two overs, then 14 from the last, but despite some valiant late hitting from Michael Bates, it proved a bridge too for for the Aucklanders. The title went to a delighted Firebirds outfit who finished the strongest in the Georgie Pie Super Smash season, and are worthy winners of the title. 

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