About the Match
It was a thrilling fight between Wellington and Otago that culminated in a big victory for Wellington as they won the one-over eliminator after the scores became tied; they will play the pre-final match against Canterbury, who finished third with 20 points after their win against Knights, at Wellington on 5th January. Both teams did well in the last few outings to knock out teams like Auckland, which was one of the front-runners till now, and qualify for the next stage. While Canterbury defended a total of 161 runs successfully against the Knights, Wellington had to face a rain-affected contest against Otago wherein they equalled the target of 48 runs set by the opposition and then went on to win the one-over eliminator. Both sides will fight hard to make it through for the title clash now.
Hamish Marshall and Michael Papps are in very good form to build a strong foundation and they are likely to open the innings here; middle-order batsmen like Tom Blundell, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Michael Pollard and Matt Taylor along with all-rounders Woodcock and Patel add depth to the batting squad.
When they met Canterbury during the league stage, Marshall, Murdoch and Elliott had performed well to try and chase down a stiff target of 200 but they fell short by 9 runs. But recently against Knights, Papps and Blundell had posted 80 off 59 and 69 off 43 to help chase down 176 with ease. They have plenty of hard-hitters who can prove to be a tough nut to crack in the upcoming match.
The bowling unit has speedsters like Elliott, Brent Arnel and Hamish Bennett while players like Anurag Verma, Luke Woodcock and Jeetan Patel bring variety to the attack with their medium-pace and spin skills. Overall, they have good resources to post a stiff challenge to Canterbury in this do-or-die contest.
Opener Tom Latham has been consistently getting the big runs for the team and he repeated his good performance against Knights too; his 82 off 57 helped them post a competitive 161 with support from Peter Fulton at No.4. Middle-order batsmen like Henry Nicholls, Andrew Ellis and Tim Johnston can focus on building steady partnerships, which could help them intimidate the hosts here while setting a target or during a chase. When they met Wellington last time, Latham, Fulton and Nicholls had scored well to post a gigantic total of 199, which the bowlers defended successfully.
The bowling squad has spinners like Todd Astle and Tim Johnston while Matt Henry, Ed Nuttall, Kyle Jamieson and Andrew Ellis could demolish the opposition with their disciplined pace attack. Other bowlers like Logan van Beek, Cole McConchie and Jeremy Benton add depth to the unit and they can combine well to stifle the Wellington batsmen here.
Canterbury has done extremely well in recent matches, and could prove to be a formidable force to reckon with in the upcoming match.
Both teams are equally matched in terms of batting strength and the multiple options in spin and pace, which could help them dominate on the field. While the contest will be well-fought and could go down to the wire, we feel that Firebirds with its consistent top-order and fierce pace combination is better placed to outwit the visitors here and qualify for the finals.