Hell Wellington Firebirds 202-4 in 19.2 overs (Birt 41, Papps 58, Franklin 35, Elliott 34) beat Auckland Aces 200 in 20 overs (Kitchen 43, C Cachopa 43, Munro 53) by six wickets.
Set a chase of 201, the Firebirds produced their best form yet with a confident six-wicket win, nailed with four balls to spare. Pro Travis Birt had led the charge with an explosive 41 off 17 at the top, including five sixes, but it was Michael Papps who underpinned the victory with a steady and unbeaten 58 off 41, allowing his teammates to tee off around him. James Franklin had taken a wicket first ball in his 1-17 and when the captain promoted himself with the bat, it too was a successful ploy as he coolly punched a quick 35 off 17.
The Aces had got off to an explosive start of their own thanks to the power of Anaru Kitchen, who peeled 22 runs off Shaun Tait's first over. But while Tait's pace was too easy at times to plunder on an excellent drop-in surface, Brent Arnel's accuracy proved a handful as he and Dane Hutchinson tempered the Aces' strong start. Pressure told on the Aces as three quick wickets fell mid-innings, a critical lull before Colin Munro, who ended with an unbeaten 53 off 23 and five sixes of his own, Craig Cachopa (43 off 35) and a final, six-laden fling from Colin de Grandhomme (30* off 11) got the Aces right back into contention.
Munro brought up both his half-century and the team 200 with a six off the penultimate ball of the innings, one of 27 maximums belted in the game. The previous New Zealand record of 26 was broken when the Firebirds' Grant Elliott ruined Bruce Martin's tidy night first ball of his last over. And, on such a true surface, the blows had largely been struck cleanly and high into the crowd.
The Aces will look to improve their control and length in the second part of their home doubleheader tomorrow night against the Canterbury Wizards, billed as a tribute to former BLACKCAP, Wizard and Ace Chris Martin, who hung up his sweatbands earlier this year.