The Wellington Firebirds have their experienced spinners, a wily Australian pace bowler and a patient batsman to thank for a last over, eight-wicket defeat of the Central Stags in a low-scoring HRV Cup match at Nelson tonight.
Stags opener Peter Ingram (46 off 35 balls) fired on all cylinders early and, with support from George Worker (31) and Ian Blackwell (22), the hosts cruised to 77 for one after 10 overs and were eyeing a potentially match-winning total of 160.
But the Firebirds finally sussed out the slow, low nature of the Saxton Oval pitch and they were able to put the brakes on, dramatically.
Captain Jeetan Patel (two for 21 from four overs) and fellow finger spinner Luke Woodcock (three for 24 from four) strangled the Stags middle order and Australian opening bowler Mark Cleary used the change of pace to near perfection in taking one for 11 of his four overs, conceding just three runs from his final 12 balls.
The Stags' batting lineup simply disintegrated. They were frustrated by the nature of the wicket and the tight bowling, losing five wickets for eight runs in a disastrous final four overs to finish on 128 for eight.
The Firebirds were patient in the run chase, knowing if they kept wickets in hand they would win the match.
Neal Parlane anchored the innings with 30 from 37 balls but the innings of the match came from No 3 Stewart Rhodes, the left-hander using any pace he could get with a series of deflections to lead his team to victory in the 20th over with an unbeaten 75 from 60 balls.