Another top order Twenty20 master-class by Jesse Ryder and Tamim Iqbal set up a 57-run victory over hosts the Canterbury Wizards in front of a full house at Rangiora this afternoon.
Ryder once again led the early charge, pumping boundaries from the beginning and racing to 37 off 24 before spinner Ronnie Hira took one of just two wickets in the innings with his first ball of the day. Ryder had already helped take the Firebirds' tally to 71 off just seven overs, and when his opening partner Tamim Iqbal kicked in to post his 50 with consecutive sixes off Hira's third over, the Firebirds were already well in control of their destiny at just midway through the first innings.
Having been inserted by the Wizards, Michael Papps (32*) and the third debutant in the Firebirds' side, Ben Orton (37*), kept the heat on as they cruised to 190 for two in the 20 overs. Iqbal had been the only other wicket to fall, Hira gaining a little revenge in his last over when Rob Nicol snaffled the catch to stop the Bangladeshi blaster on 74 from 47 deliveries.
Hira's two for 32 was slight consolation for the Wizards however, who then struggled to get partnerships going against a tight all-round bowling performance that included a respectable HRV Cup debut from right-arm pace bowler Tipene Friday, who claimed Gareth Andrew as his first Twenty20 victim, caught by Ryder on 13.
The wicket saw the Wizards teetering on 60 for five - thanks to a devastating spell of four for 14 from the Firebirds' other pace bowling debutant Malaesaili Tugaga, who had earlier removed Brad Cachopa and Tom Latham (for a duck) in the space of five balls without addition to the score. The first ball of the over had been a leg bye, resulting in a double wicket maiden and Wellington's best Twenty20 individual bowling performance in his stunning first game.
Captain Grant Elliott's decision to bowl out Tugaga in the first half of the match proved inspired as the Cantabrians never recovered from their rocky start, the required run-rate climbing into high country by just the 13th over. They lost their last five wickets for 55 runs before they were bowled out with an over to spare.
The result leaves the Cantabrians languishing at the wrong end of the HRV Cup points table as the Wellington Firebirds move into second spot behind the Otago Volts.