My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

So this is what winning feels like :)

on November 10, 2012

I have to say, over the years and through many cricket seasons, following and supporting the Wellington Firebirds has been a definite test of patience, endurance and learning how to set reasonable expectations for what transpires over the course of a season.

Hence why yesterday, which marked the first home game for the Firebirds in the form of a 20/20 fixture against the Canterbury Wizards (which forms part of the New Zealand domestic 20/20 competition known as the HRV Cup, for those not familiar with New Zealand domestic cricket), I was more excited to witness an enthralling game of cricket, rather than put any thought into which team I wanted to win.  I mean, obviously I would always want the Firebirds to be victorious, naturally being my home team, but I just wanted to enjoy the cricket on show for the evening.

And it was set up to be a very good game of cricket, just quietly.

Looking down the starting line-up for the Firebirds read like a “who’s who” of international cricketing fame and prowess … Grant Elliott (37 ODIs for NZ), Andy McKay (19 ODIs for NZ), Jesse Ryder (18 tests, 39 ODIs, 20 T20s for NZ), Mark Gillespie (32 ODIs, 5 tests for NZ), Michael Papps (8 tests for NZ) and then the likes of Luke Ronchi, Cameron Borgas and of course, Shaun Tait with their Australian domestic and international experience between them.

It’s not often you could say that the Firebirds go into a match as “favourites” but, even with the likes of Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Shanan Stewart and George Worker, to name a few, the Wizards would have been within their rights to have claimed the under-dog status.

Wizards openers and Firebirds take to the field!

Although, they definitely didn’t play like under-dogs as they won the toss and decided to bat first at the Westpac Stadium … despite the threat of Shaun Tait bowling in excess of 145km/hr at them!  Brad Cachopa and George Worker set up the batting effort nicely, with a solid opening partnership which included smashing 31 runs off Andy McKay’s 3 overs that he bowled, racing to 50 runs off just 6.2 overs!

When George Worker was eventually dismissed for 23 runs, after the spin bowling of Luke Woodcock was introduced by the Firebirds, Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie hit cameos of 34 and 11 respectively, to assist Brad Cachopa (67 not out) and the team to reach a very respectable total of 147 for 6 wickets.  The score could, however, have been considerably more, had Shaun Tait not come in and bowled the last over rather fiercely, and successfully too – claiming the wickets of Henry Nicholls and Logan van Beek off respective deliveries (he unfortunately missed the hattrick wicket) and finishing with rather tidy bowling statistics of 4 overs, 2 wickets for 14 runs conceded.  Definitely worth the price of admission in itself, to witness that kind of FAST bowling!

Okay, so the Firebirds’ renowned batting line-up were set the task of scoring 148 runs off their 20 overs to win this match.  And as we watched the teams warming up during the innings break for the second half of the game, and it became clear that Jesse Ryder and Michael Pollard would be opening the batting innings for the home team, I’ll admit to quietly hoping and praying that Jesse Ryder would get a good score and be able to withstand the immense pressure to perform that the media and cricketing public place on him every time he takes the field for his province.

Hearing the solid crack as the ball hit Jesse Ryder’s bat as he faced up to the first delivery from Tim Johnston and the batsmen crossed for an easy single, made me realise just what kind of batting form he was currently enjoying and that just maybe my prayer would be answered …

Jesse Ryder smashes another ball over the boundary!

There was a slight hiccup in the innings as the Firebirds lost the wickets of the Michaels (Pollard and Papps!) for not much, but Cameron Borgas, batting in the No. 4 position, steadily built an innings with Jesse Ryder, doing exactly what he was supposed to do in the situation and feeding the strike to the in-form batsman.  The pair brought up a 50 run partnership in reasonably quick time and although Cameron Borgas only scored 24 runs, it was off 24 deliveries and had built the momentum for Grant Elliott to finish the job with a fired-up Jesse Ryder, who carried his bat through the innings (for those of you not aware, this means that he opened up the innings coming in at the No. 1 position in the order, and was not dismissed by the side bowling) and scored 90 runs off 57 deliveries (‘d call that a “good” score, wouldn’t you?), striking 4 boundary fours and 5 sixes which cleared the boundary very quickly and very firmly!  (One of which was caught by a gentleman in the crowd, one-handed and holding a cup of beer in his other hand!  I think he was pleased with himself!)

The fact that the Firebirds reached their target after only 17 overs of their allocated 20 makes me realise just how brilliant the innings of Jesse Ryder’s was; especially when he was approaching a milestone himself (he could probably have scored a century of runs) but instead of taking risks and trying to quickly score boundaries to assist him in this, he instead chose to assist his team and, as the Wizards were rightly or wrongly protecting boundary-scoring shots at this stage of the innings, expertly guided the Firebirds to their target.  90 runs achieved, but worth 100 to his team, I would say!

The only thing I was disappointed with for this match was the support from the public.

The Friday night cricket concept is worth persevering with, in my view, and it’s a fantastic night out of entertainment, especially when the weather is so fine and perfect as it was this week, but I can’t help wishing the Stadium seats had been FULL of cricket fans, able to enjoy such skilful and exciting cricketing talent that those of us who did go along, thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated!

I hope the powers that be put a little bit more effort into filling the Stadium next Friday (16 November) when the Auckland Aces come to play cause, let’s face it, is anyone else fascinated and excited at the prospect of Shaun Tait charging in to bowl at Lou Vincent et al, and the Firebirds’ batsmen, including Jesse Ryder, facing off against a bowling attack that was competitive and somewhat successful in the recent Champions League in South Africa?!

Of course, that’s next week … this week, our Wellington Firebirds are winners and just maybe, 2012/13 is the season of the Firebird!  😉

Keep the winning happening, Firebirds!


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