About the Match
Wellington registered an emphatic win over Canterbury in the pre-final match on Wednesday to make it through for the title clash against table-toppers Central Districts at New Plymouth on 7th January. Central Districts which had already qualified for the finals, defeated one of the front-runners Auckland by 11 runs through the DLS method to knock them out of the tournament; they have proved to be a formidable force to reckon with and the last time these two teams met each other, the Stags had emerged victorious by 6 wickets. It needs to be seen if Wellington which rose up above the rankings in a steady fashion this season, can avenge the previous defeat in this fight for the top prize on Saturday.
They have an in-form batting line-up that consists of players like Mahela Jayawardene, George Worker, Will Young, Tom Bruce and Dane Cleaver, who have been making useful contributions in helping the team emerge as a strong contender for the title. Against Wellington recently, they chased down 134 runs with ease with almost 4 overs to spare, thanks to a splendid 40 off 21 by Jayawardene, Worker’s run-a-ball 32, and good performance by Bruce and Cleaver.
Earlier, all-rounder spinner Worker had taken 3-26 that stifle the opposition and with help from Seth Rance and Ben Wheeler, who took 2 wickets each, they contained Wellington to a lowly 133. Spinner Marty Kain and speedster Ryan McCone dismissed one opponent each and they provide depth to the attack.
In the recent match against Auckland however, the bowlers proved to be costly and despite regular breakthroughs by Kain, Feldman, Rance and Worker, they ended up facing a stiff target of 212. However, the rains did a favour and they could chase down a reduced target to win the match by 11 runs. Jayawardene and George Worker scored big runs and they can provide a solid foundation here.
Fast-bowlers Hamish Bennett, who took 3-18, Brent Arnel and Grant Elliott, demolished the Canterbury batting line-up to restrict them to 151 runs; spinner Jeetan Patel also provided 2 quick breakthroughs and along with Luke Woodcock and medium pacer Anurag Verma brings variety to the attack.
Opening batsmen Michael Papps and Hamish Marshall have been consistently getting the big runs, and could provide a solid foundation for the team. Tom Blundell, Michael Pollard and all-rounder batsman Grant Elliott have also been performing well with the bat. They combined to chase down 152 runs easily, and make it through to the finals with a big win in the pre final match.
Against Central Districts previously, the middle-order did well to stabilize the innings batting first but with hardly any support from others down the line, they could muster only 133 runs in the end. Murdoch, Elliott and Blundell got the scoreboard ticking but the bowlers failed to restrict the opponents despite good show by Brent Arnel, Elliott and Bennett. Overall, they have made big improvements in their game plan through the league and could post a stiff challenge here.
Central Districts have a better record in this series compared to Wellington and having won the last time they faced each other, the hosts have the psychological advantage too. However, we feel that Stags with their power-packed batting and a disciplined bowling attack, might just edge past the Firebirds here to win the title.