In only his second HRV Twenty20 match, 19-year-old Henry Walsh became a Wellington Firebirds hero tonight as he carved a Peter Trego full toss high into Wellington Stadium to win a thriller on the last ball.
Taking a steady - but tight - run chase against the Devon Hotel Central Stags to the wire, the Firebirds had needed a boundary off that last delivery after the experience and accuracy of Jacob Oram (2-27 off four in his first game of the season) had squeezed the pressure on in the preceding overs.
Not only that, the Stags had also had to deal with the disruption of losing skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett mid-innings after he split the webbing of his hand four balls into his second over.
Taking over the reins was Jamie How, who with all-round pro Trego had blasted the Stags to a power start. Together they plundered 15 boundaries off the first seven overs, Trego's 50 coming off 25 balls. The Firebirds had made the mistake of serving up pace to How - who relished his duel with Shaun Tait, but the batsmen did not seem as prepared for the in-swing of Dane Hutchinson whose vicious yorkers propelled him to a career-best 4-24, bowling Trego with a beauty.
Dropped by Brent Arnel on 44, How soldiered on to raise his bat to 50 off 30 balls before Arnel made amends, the opener caught swinging at a loose bouncer. Given a free license after being bumped up to four, Doug Bracewell was the other significant contributer with 34 off 22 as the Stags set a fair chase of 196 on a belter of a pitch.
The winner of tonight's clash would chalk up their first HRV Twenty20 points and they hung in the balance throughout the chase. While Michael Pollard (47 off 30) produced textbook clean hitting at the top and the experience of veterans James Franklin (31 off 17) and Luke Woodcock (an unbeaten 33 off 23) kept the Firebirds in it, the trump card in the batting was the brutality through the middle of Stephen Murdoch, whose 52 off 31 was a career-best maiden half century in his fourth HRV appearance.
The Firebirds now brace themselves for part two of their home doubleheader, against the Auckland Aces tomorrow evening, while the Stags revert to red ball cricket until 27 December.