A strong bowling performance, led by Luke Woodcock, helped the Mighty Ape Wellington Firebirds take a seven-wicket win over the Mondiale Auckland Aces. The upset win ended Auckland’s unbeaten record at home in Georgie Pie Super Smash 2015, in front of a bumper crowd on the last Super Smash Sunday with all six teams in action at once.
The Aces were already in the Finals, however, and are now booked to play the SBS Bank Otago Volts on Friday to decide who moves straight into the Grand Final.
The Firebirds' bowlers were on top of the Aces from ball one as Dane Hutchinson removed Jeet Raval with the very first ball of the match.
Only two leg byes came off the over.
That wicket set the tone for Auckland’s innings: no batsmen could really get going. The home highlights were a dashing 28 by captain for the day Colin Munro and a fine lower order cameo of 27 from Tarun Nethula.
Many in the large Eden Park Outer Oval crowd thought they were in for another Munro special when he opened his innings with a six, but sadly even he couldn’t kick on.
After some jitters in the field early in the Georgie Pie Super Smash season, the Firebirds were exceptional, all the fielders backing up the bowlers with very tidy work.
MVP Dane Hutchinson, Alecz Day and Luke Woodcock all bowled very well to put the breaks on any Auckland momentum. It wasn’t until a late partnership between Nethula and Lockie Ferguson that the Aces could build any time in the middle.
Despite only making 10, debutant Shawn Hicks showed his excellent promise and he played some nice shots looking to carry on his recent good form at other levels of cricket.
In reply, the Firebirds never looked in danger.
Michael Papps and Tom Blundell got their side off to a strong start and Auckland couldn’t get back in the game.
Despite losing the wickets of Papps, Murdoch and Ronchi they couldn’t be slowed down. Blundell in particular looking assured as he showed some of his fine batting touch in the longer formats of the game in the T20 arena.
The win for the ousted defending champions means their campaign won’t end on a completely sour note, despite not making the Finals series.