Firebirds qualify

Not even a special catch from Otago Volt Nathan Smith could stop the Wellington Firebirds from becoming the first of the men's teams to qualify in the top three.

Sending the Volts in at the Basin, the defending champions made it a doubly successful day for Wellington after Blaze had earlier qualified themselves with a record victory.

The Volts had headed into the Firebirds' nest hoping to break a losing streak but, after losing both Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom inside the first three overs, they were on the back foot.

The bowler was the tall young Ben Sears who came close to a career best with his 4-21. With Jimmy Neesham out injured, it was just what the Firebirds had hoped for as he came on as first change in the third over and had the two Otago veterans caught off consecutive balls.

He picked up Josh Finnie off his next over and then Dale Phillips at the start of the seventh to have the visitors 38/4.

And that was pretty much how it continued for the Volts, losing regular wickets with no one really getting going and young Max Chu left to ladle a quick unbeaten 21* off 12 at the end to get them up to 137 for nine.

It was barely enough to bowl at whilst taking on the competition leaders, but in fighting southern style they gave it a fair good crack.

Never to be underestimated, Mitch McClenaghan had a big impact, returning serve as he blasted out Wellington openers Finn Allen and Devon Conway inside the first three overs.

He came back for Tom Blundell on 19 a few overs later to have the Firebirds 51/3, and finished with 3-36.

But in the meantime. Rachin Ravindra and Michael Bracewell, having recovered from his head knock, had got starts, and that was enough for Bracewell to anchor the rest of the chase.

The Volts kept fighting with the ball, and Smith pulled off his electric grab to removed big-hitter Jamie Gibson for just six.

But captain Bracewell wouldn't budge and helped steer his team into the Finals with an unbeaten 47* off 43 balls.

Like the Knights, the Volts can now attain a maximum 20 points on the table while the Kings and Stags sit ahead of them in the box seats.

Article added: Monday 25 January 2021