STOP PRESS. The Wellington Firebirds have snuck into the McDonald’s Super Smash playoffs in remarkable fashion.
Bottom of the table with three games to go, the Firebirds reeled off three straight wins to edge out the Kings on net run rate for the third and final spot.
Their latest victory was the most stunning of the lot.
For the majority of the wet day it looked like play would be washed out at the Basin Reserve, which would have left the Firebirds – who required four points to make the playoffs – agonisingly short.
However, superb work from the groundstaff, and the willingness of the Otago Volts to get a game in, saw enough time remaining for a five overs per side game (the minimum permitted) to begin at 4.40pm.
The Volts would make 48/1 after being inserted, roughly a par score according to WASP.
Anaru Kitchen could muster only 17 from 16 balls but Hamish Rutherford (above) was quicker, his unbeaten 24 from 14 balls creating a defendable total for the Volts.
Wellington’s response started at a good pace, before three wickets in three balls changed their innings outlook.
Hamish Marshall fell at the end of the second over, and Christi Viljoen claimed two wickets with their first two balls of his over to put Otago back on top.
It was more the three dot balls rather than the wickets which proved helpful, as the fall of wickets only brought the two most explosive Wellington batsmen to the crease.
Michael Pollard blasted a quick-fire 14 off five balls and Grant Elliott’s unbeaten 12 from eight gave his side a chance.
Needing eight from the final Ryan Duffy over, the Firebirds lost Matt Taylor to make the equation seven off four, but a four to Elliott, followed by a dot ball and a single left Luke Woodcock requiring two from the final ball to win the game.
Fittingly for a frantic game, he slapped the ball through the offside but was run out diving for a second run, sending the game to a tense super over.
Batting first in the super over, the Firebirds sent out Michael Pollard and Tom Blundell to face the music, and Pollard delivered.
Despite being their most expensive bowler in the innings, the Volts picked BLACKCAP Neil Wagner to bowl the deciding over, a move which backfired as he bowled a waist-high no-ball on the first delivery.
Pollard obliterated the resulting free hit out of the ground, then hit another maximum on his way to crushing 17 from five balls as the Birds set the Volts 21 to win.
They could muster only eight from the bowling of Hamish Bennett and the jubilant Firebirds booked their ticket to the 2 v 3 playoff. The Firebirds will host the Canterbury Kings in the Elimination Final on Thursday, the winner earning a trip to Pukekura Park on Saturday to play the Central Stags for the title.
Tickets to the two Finals will be available here.