Finn Allen was up for yet another fifty while spinners Leigh Kasperek and Michael Bracewell took their best figures yet with a match-winning four-fa each to buoy the Basin Reserve crowd with a double Wellington win on Saturday.
WHITE FERNS spinner Kasperek was operating in just her second game back this summer, and snared a Dream11 Super Smash best of 4-16 in Wellington Blaze's five-wicket win over Northern Spirit.
It was Kasperek's best haul since her 4-19 for her previous team the Otago Sparks in 2017/18, and helped her Blaze side restrict rampaging Northern Spirit to just 100/8 in their 20 overs, after the pink destroyers had elected to bat first.
They were big wickets too, after the Kerr sisters combined to make the first breakthrough: dangerous Kate Anderson gone in the fourth over after a 12-ball 17.
Kasperek grabbed her first five balls later when Spirit captain Brooke Halliday was snapped up by Jess Kerr cheaply, then came back on in the 13th to snare the crucial wicket of Katie Gurrey, caught by Rebecca Burns on 11.
The penultimate over saw Kasperek collect two off the over to ensure the brakes were applied to Spirit's finish, just four runs coming from the tweaker's tidy 19th before Jess Kerr took her second wicket in the 20th for 2-21.
While Amelia Kerr had remained wicketless, her impact was felt not just in the field but in combining with Kasperek to turn the screws, both spinners going for just four runs per over off their four.
Spirit faced a stiff challenge defending that total at the Basin and although no one bar Burns with a typically quick 24 really got pumping with bat, the team collective comfortably chased down the runs with three overs to spare.
It was crucial points on the board in the top of the table clash, Blaze now on equal pegging points-wise with Spirit, but surging ahead on net run rate to occupy the prestigious top slot.
The Wellington Firebirds' handsome 80-run win over the Knights made it a double act as they, too, marched on up the table to open up a four-point gap over the roaring Central Stags.
Sent in, Firebirds opener Finn Allen continued to be a revelation with his second half century on the bounce, and third of the T20 summer.
The 21-year-old former NZ Under 19 captain got the hosts off to a power start with 75 off 39, including 10 boundaries and two sixes. He is now the league's second overall run-scorer, his 230 from four innings behind only George Worker's 306 from five.
He wasn't the only hometown hero with Logan van Beek later holding a stunning outfield catch and Michael Bracewell once again proving he can be more than a part-time spinning asset with a shock 4-28 off his three overs - his previous T20 career best having been 2-5 and career haul amounting to five wickets before today.
Ironically he had missed out with the bat, after coming in at the fall of Jimmy Neesham early in the 16th as Scott Kuggelelijn picked up two in one over.
But by then the Firebirds already had a total they could work with.
Allen's turbo boost at the top had been backed up by BLACKCAP Devon Conway who opened with him and contributed a 35-ball 45 in their 117-run opening stand.
Finally Brett Hampton got his own back with Allen's wicket just as they embraked on the back half of the innings, bringing in another BC in Tom Blundell who contributed a 20-ball 22.
Neesham's stay was short, but a quick late injection from fellow allounder Jamie Gibson swept the Firebirds up to a total of 185 for seven in their 20.
The fielding effort to defend it was superb.
Hamish Bennett struck with his second delivery to have the normally quick starter Katene Clarke walking back at 0-1. Bennett would later wrap it all up in the 16th over for 2-13 off his 2.2 overs, and in the meantime the Basin homies were in for a great show.
Van Beek's outstretched diving grab off Bracewell to remove big Brett Hampton for just three was a stunner, and the Firebirds were right on top.
Tim Seifert's 41-ball 53 at the top was the only meaty contribution from the Knights who were already seven down before Neesham stopped him in the 14th.
Neesham was on fire with 3-11 off his three, backing up Bracewell's star turn through the middle.
Bowled out for 105, the Knights were left ruing a big 80-run loss in a big showdown.
Article added: Tuesday 12 January 2021