The Wellington Blaze head in to this week’s T20 tournament at Lincoln in second place on the table. Tied on points with the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield-winning Auckland Hearts, overcoming the run-rate deficit shouldn’t be any issue over the next four days with power-hitters Sophie Devine and Rachel Priest back from Big Bash League duty.
Priest’s Sydney Thunder made the semi-finals of the tournament, where she and another Blaze alumni, Fran Wilson, were the top-scorers for their side as they lost to the Perth Scorchers. The match-up against Devine’s Strikers in January brought out the best in Priest as she hit 51 and claimed three stumpings, including her Wellington teammate, in a Player of the Match performance.
The Adelaide Strikers, with Suzie Bates and Devine at the top of the order, also made it to the semi-final before being knocked out after a top order collapse. Devine was in sensational form for the side, with season stats arguably comparable to another WHITE FERN, Amy Satterthwaite, who was named Player of the Tournament. Ninth on the run-scoring charts, fourth-highest wicket-taker, hitter of the second-most sixes, all bodes well for a strong return to the Blaze for Devine.
The Blaze have progressed through the season with limited input from these two stars, however, and their success to this point has largely been down to effective bowling from Amelia Kerr, Deanna Doughty, Eimear Richardson, and Lucy Doolan. These four sit among the top 10 wicket-takers in the tournament and emphasis the strength and success of the capital team’s spin bowling attack.
The top two sides have an eight-point gap on the chasing pack but the heavy schedule of matches over the next four days starts with everyone in the mix for the title and with the strength of all squads being tested.
Wellington Blaze squad
Liz Perry (captain)
Wellington Blaze schedule
v Central Hinds, 4pm, February 8
v Otago Sparks, 10am, February 9
v Auckland Hearts, 2.30pm, February 9
v Northern Spirit, 2pm, February 10
v Canterbury Magicians, 10am, February 11
all matches live scored on www.nzc.nz