Firebirds continue faith in homegrown talent

The Wellington Firebirds will give homegrown talent an
opportunity this weekend when they host the Northern Knights in round six of
the Burger King Super Smash.

Head coach Bruce Edgar has named batsman Troy Johnson
in his squad for tomorrow’s clash and the 21-year-old is likely to line-up in
the matchday eleven to face the competition leaders.

Johnson has excelled in the Wellington A set-up so far
this season, captaining the side to the quadrangular A tournament title in
Taupo last month, scoring 236 runs at an average of 118 over just four matches.

The promising batsman said he was looking forward to
the challenge of stepping up to the highest level.

“I’m very excited, can’t wait to get out there to be
honest. It’s been years and years of hard work and looking up at the boys out
there and to get the chance is really exciting. I can’t wait to get out there
and contribute.”

Johnson faced some of New Zealand’s best limited-over
bowlers in Taupo, including Mitchell McClenaghan and BLACKCAP Mitchell Santner,
and will now get the opportunity to continue his development against a Knights
team full of confidence after their two-wicket win over Canterbury on
Wednesday.

“The A program this year has been fantastic, and the
Taupo tournament is always outstanding,” he said.

“Every year it’s challenging coming up against guys
who are real top-level cricketers, so coming through that and tasting success
there gives me confidence to go out and replicate that in the Firebirds
environment.”

The inclusion of Johnson continues Wellington’s trend this
summer of giving Wellington grown talent an opportunity at the professional
level.

Promising youngsters Jakob Bhula, Ben Sears, Andrew
Fletcher and Lauchie Johns have all been given opportunities so far this season
and have all repaid the faith shown in them by Edgar and assistant coach Glenn
Pocknall.

Edgar said Johnson had earned his call up to the Super
Smash level with consistent performances for the Wellington A team.

“We’ve been really impressed with Troy’s performances
at the recent A competition in Taupo, as well as the recent matches against
Central Districts A.

“Troy’s travelled with the squad on a few occasions
recently and he’s earned his opportunity.”

The Firebirds come into this game on a role of their
own after two convincing wins: over the Central Stags on New Year’s Eve and the
Canterbury Kings last weekend.

Opening pair Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway have
been in lightning form so far, averaging 84 runs for the first wicket.

Bracewell leads the run-scoring charts for the
competition with 209 runs and has hit 17 sixes, 11 more than any other player.

Wellington are also clicking with the ball.

Twenty-year-old fast bowler Ben Sears played a huge
role in last weekend’s win, leading the bowling attack with figures of four for
sixteen and Hamish Bennett has carried on his brilliant Ford Trophy form in the
T20 arena.

The Knights, who have won the last two encounters
between the two sides at the Basin Reserve, will be looking to topple the
Firebirds strong home run which has seen them lose just once this season on
home soil.

Play gets underway at 4.10pm from the Basin Reserve
tomorrow. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children – entry is free for
all Wellington junior club and college cricket players.

Wellington Firebirds |
Burger King Super Smash | Round Six v Knights

Hamish
Bennett (c)

Tom
Blundell (wk)

Michael
Bracewell

Devon Conway

Adam Hose

Troy Johnson

Iain McPeake

Ollie Newton

Jeetan Patel

Michael Pollard

Ben Sears

Logan van Beek

Luke Woodcock

CricHQ

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