Cricket

Devon Conway, Hamish Bennett lead Wellington to Super Smash title

Wellington Firebirds 168 for 7 (Conway 49, McClenaghan 3-32) beat Auckland Aces 146 for 9 (Guptill 60, Cachopa 25, van Beek 3-28, Bennett 3-34) by 22 runs

Wellington did the double at Basin Reserve on Sunday, with both the Firebirds (men’s team) and the Blaze (women’s team) securing the 20-over Super Smash titles. The Firebirds are also the reigning 50-over Ford Trophy champions, having defeated Otago in Dunedin in 2018-19.

Fast bowler Hamish Bennett, who had starred in that final, was at it in the Super Smash final, his 3 for 34 thwarting Martin Guptill and helping the Firebirds defend 168. Bennett, who now holds both domestic white-ball titles, could well make his T20I debut against the visiting India side next week.

Auckland Aces’ New Zealand internationals Guptill and Colin Munro had given their team a sound start in pursuit of 169 by adding 33 for the opening stand in four overs. But one run and three balls later, Bennett had Munro tickling one behind, and TV umpire Ashley Mehrota ruled the opener out although Munro wasn’t pleased with the decision, suggesting that he hadn’t touched the ball.

Then, immediately after the powerplay, Jimmy Neesham marked his return from a quadricep injury when he had Glenn Phillips dragging a catch to deep square-leg for a run-a-ball 7. Neesham combined with left-arm fingerspinner Rachin Ravindra and Netherlands international Logan van Beek to pin down the middle order. All three bowlers conceded just one boundary each, sharing five wickets between them.

Guptill, though, stood tall even as the Aces sank to 104 for 5 and then 113 for 6. Guptill, who was on 23 off 22 balls by the end of the powerplay, set his focus towards taking the chase deep. He brought up a 45-ball half-century in the 16th over, when he slapped seamer Ollie Newton behind point four.

Auckland now needed 59 off 29 balls, with the in-form Bennett still with one over in his bag. Van Beek, too, did some significant damage, getting three wickets, including two in one over.

Guptill gave Auckland more hope when he lined up the returning Bennett in the 18th over and thumped him over midwicket for six. However, Bennett responded strongly, getting Guptill to hole out for 60 off 53 balls. Van Beek produced a game-changing moment, pulling off a stunning hokey-pokey catch at the edge of the deep-midwicket boundary. A fierce whip from Guptill seemed destined to fly over the boundary… until van Beek himself took flight and caught the ball at the edge of the rope. He then lost his balance and jumped beyond the rope, but had the presence of mind to toss the ball into play and retrieve it in the end.

It was only fitting that Bennett and van Beek closed out the game for the Firebirds. The two men had moved north from Canterbury, playing crucial hands in the Firebirds’ third T20 title victory.

Earlier, it was Black Cap-in-waiting Devon Conway who had set up the win, with a 37-ball 49 at the top. Conway lit up the Basin by crunching beanpole quick Kyle Jamieson for three fours in the first over of the game, including a drilled cover-drive. Michael Pollard, the other opener, wasn’t as fluent at the other end, and was dismissed by left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan.

Conway continued on his merry way and lashed left-arm fingerspinner Mark Chapman for back-to-back boundaries to push the Firebirds to 80 for 2 in ten overs. McClenaghan then returned to the attack and had Conway splicing one to extra cover, where Craig Cachopa pulled off a blinding one-handed catch. Conway capped the season as the top run-getter, with 543 runs in 11 innings at an average of 67.87 and strike rate of 145.18.

The South Africa-born top-order batsman will qualify to play for New Zealand soon, just before the T20 World Cup, but coach Gary Stead is already so impressed by him that he called him into New Zealand’s winter camp last year.

Jamieson nailed his yorkers and mixed it up his hard lengths at the death while Munro gave little away with his cutters and rollers as the Firebirds’ innings threatened to spiral out of control. However, charming cameos from a fit-again Neesham (22 off 13 balls), captain Michael Bracewell (23 off 17 balls), and van Beek (15* off eight balls) ensured they reached 168. Van Beek, in particular, was the only Firebirds batsman to get the measure of McClenaghan, taking him for 11 off four balls. Bennett and van Beek then made that total look a whole lot bigger with the ball and in the field, thrilling the home crowd.

Sophie Devine sets up victory in seven-over shootout

Sophie Devine was in complete control after poor weather meant only a seven-overs-a-side contest would be possible in the women’s final.

Devine and Rachel Priest dealt in boundaries to start with, the first 20 runs coming in fours, to take Wellington to 20 after two overs. Once Priest fell, Devine switched to smashing sixes, hitting three in the fourth over of the innings, bowled by Anna Peterson, and reached her half-century in just 22 balls. She couldn’t carry on, though, Bella Armstrong sending her back for a 23-ball 54. Though only eight runs came off the final over, Wellington had a strong 81 for 2 on the board thanks to their captain.

Devine came back to bowl a fine first over, conceding just five runs, and that set the tone for the Auckland reply, as they struggled to find the boundaries, lost wickets, and could only manage 45 for 5, going down by 36 runs.

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1213544.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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