The Wellington Firebirds will return home to play their first match at the Basin Reserve since November 7 when they take on the Otago Volts in their round three clash with the Otago Volts tomorrow.
The Ford Trophy champions were last on home soil in their round five Ford Trophy win over Auckland – since then they have played ten games away from home, including the Ford Trophy elimination final and grand final, as well as two first-class Plunket Shield matches.
Such a long run away from home is unusual in List A and first-class cricket, but the fact that the Firebirds have picked up a significant trophy within that period speaks volumes for the determination of a team that has, at times, lacked experience.
Now the Firebirds’ focus switches to the T20 format and a Ford Trophy grand final rematch with the Otago Volts who were on the wrong-end of a Wellington win record last time they visited the Basin Reserve – thumped by 193-runs.
Firebirds head coach Bruce Edgar said playing in-front of a home crowd would boost the players’ confidence after a long stint away.
“We are looking forward to getting back on our home ground after our last match on November 7. The lads will be fresh and ready to go after just getting one match in Hamilton and a rain out in Auckland.”
Edgar has made two changes to his squad from the one beaten by the Knights in the Burger King Super Smash opener at Seddon Park last Saturday. Troy Johnson drops out of the squad and Ben Sears is replaced by Peter Younghusband.
“We have certainly taken away some key points against the Knights and the areas we need to improve on. Our challenge will be to more precise against the Volts,” said Edgar.
There were plenty of positives to take away from the round one defeat, including a strong opening stand from Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell, as well as an impressive debut from overseas pro Adam Hose which had the Firebirds well on track to chase down the Knights total at the halfway over mark.
The Firebirds will now be looking to post four points on the board and stay in early contention after their round two match with the Auckland Aces was washed out on Christmas Eve.
Otago got off to a strong start on Sunday with a five wicket win over the Canterbury Kings at the University of Otago Oval.
Openers Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom were once again the stand-outs for the Southerners and keeping the two former BLACKCAPS quiet could be the key to victory for the Firebirds.
The Firebirds have won their last three T20 matches against the Volts, including a super-over win in January last year – a win would see them right up with the pace, leading in to a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Central Stags.
Friday will be another Super Smash double-header as the Wellington Blaze look to keep a hold of the competition top spot when they take on the Otago Sparks.
The Blaze ran away comfortable winners by eight wickets last time the two teams faced-off in the competitions opening central round – the Blaze are unbeaten since then and will be looking to continue the form that makes them favourites to defend their T20 crown.
Head coach Christie van Dyk has made two changes the team that beat the Northern Spirit last time out.
Wheturangi Charteris drops out of the squad and is replaced by Suzie McDonald who will make her first Super Smash appearance of the summer if selected in the eleven. Youngster Xara Jetly is also brought into the squad.
The Blaze boast a powerful batting line up including openers Rebecca Burns and Lucy Doolan who both proved their batting power in the win over the Spirit – Doolan the player of the match with an entertaining 70 off 62 balls, carrying her bat through the innings.
The current T20 champions also showed their bite in the field last Saturday – wicketkeeper Jess McFadyen stumped four of the Spirit batters and WHITE FERN Amelia Kerr bowled a spell of world-class leg spin bowling that bamboozled some of the Spirit batters.
The Blaze and the Sparks get the Burger King Super Smash double-header underway at 12.45, followed by the Firebirds and Volts at 4.00pm. Tickets are $5 for children and $15 for adults. Wellington school and junior club cricketers go free.
Wellington Blaze | Burger King Super Smash | Round Eight v Otago Sparks
Liz Perry (c)
Jess McFadyen (wk)
Wellington Firebirds | Burger King Super Smash | Round Three v Otago Volts
Hamish Bennett (c)
Tom Blundell (wk)