It was like Nathan Lyon and Hobart 2011 all over again. The gutted batsman crouching, the other team going nuts. Finishes don’t come much closer than this — just half a metre from the points as Luke Woodcock was run out going for a desperate dash on the last ball.
If he’d made it, that scrambled second run would have at least tied the ball game, and the Firebirds would have stayed unbeaten and the most emotional player of them all (in a good way, people) and a former keeper himself would have been spared the agony of the next few hours replaying his mind’s vision of the bails being whipped off with his Birds in a flap. He’d done so well to punch up 39 off 28 balls at seven to keep his team in it, but a win in the defending champions’ first home match at the Basin this season was not to be.
So rewind to a couple of hours earlier and the Knights weren’t looking all that pretty in pink having put up a middling tally of 145 on a deck that was on the slow side, but also laid out a bit of a carpet — a very entertaining one — for the spinners in windy conditions.
Bit of a change from the big-scoring, high energy belters in other parts (Hamish Bennett only bowling two overs) and now the slow bowling aficionados, or even the subset of Jeetan Patel aficionados, could light up as the icon that is Jeetan Patel got to do his white ball thing going for just 14 runs off his four overs, and capturing two very useful wickets with Knights captain Daniel Flynn trapped on a three-ball duck and potential game-changer Nick Kelly caught on two.
So that meant Patels took five wickets between them with Notts County import Samit Patel again endearing himself to his new capital constituency with a a big 3-28 at the top, and the paceman Anurag Verma claiming the remaining wicket as the Birds throttled the Knights down to 145 for six with the best of the pink bunch a handful of scores in the high twenties/low thirties.
For the hosts, better than seeing a keeper-batsman gallop away to the fastest ton in domestic history or a tailender bashing out a fast 84 so rest assured they were in it against the hot pink side coming off a couple of impressive outings at home up north.
The Knights had Ish Sodhi and Anton Devcich up their sleeve but they opened with pace and Brent Arnel got off to a brilliant start dismissing his old ND mate Hamish Marshall with his very first ball. Having grabbed a couple of quick boundaries off Scott Kuggeleijn, veteran Marshall had looked to be on for a fast start already, but at 11 for one in the second over and then 20 for two, the run rate slowed and the Firebirds had to put their head down.
Twenty-six-year-old Devon Conway (above) was on his T20 debut for the side and was a last-minute inclusion after keeper-batsman Tom Blundell took ill on game day.
But luckily for them he’s played a bit having had a big career in all formats in his native South Africa, so Conway knew what to do in the conditions and staved off a fired up Sodhi (who to be fair is always fired up for wickets) with a 36-ball 53 at the top, the half ton on debut that kept the Firebirds chase thereabouts despite the cost of a few wickies.
Sodhi and Arnel pretty much gutted the middle order between them with Sodhi getting one over his Notts teammate Samit Patel again, so Conway hanging on was key. He was doing the bizzo well until in the 14th he missed a shot at gunning for glory when Daryl Mitchell got him caught in reasonably innocuous fashion — which was a big moment for the trundler who, after three games and back from a shoulder reconstruction, had his first wicket of the Burger King Super Smash season.
So now it was all set up for an emotional finish with the Firebirds still needing 52 from the back quarter, and Jeetan Patel run out in the same over and it all falling to Woodcock to deliver some Woody magic.
He did, belting his 39 off just 28 balls and taking 10 off the first two balls of the over before it all ended in tears on the last ball, three needed but only one found, the Knights usurping the Birds at the top of the interim table after the first showdown of the third round.
Now attention switches to Rangiora tomorrow arvo where the Canterbury Kings are looking for revenge — and a landmark 100th wicket for Andrew Ellis — in a huge game against the Central Stags in what’s been a pretty tight comp early doors.