T20 cricket has been the flavour of world cricket in the last few years. Super Smash has been the premier T20 tournament in New Zealand ever since the 2005-06 season. However, it wasn’t until 2014-15 that the Wellington Firebirds won a Super Smash title. They replicated the feat in the 2016-17 season.
But they were below par since then. In the last couple of seasons, the Wellington Firebird didn’t live up to expectations. In fact, they had identical returns as they finished fifth in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. They were pretty inconsistent and that was one of the main reasons for their inability to make it big in the last two seasons.
But this season was different. There was continuity in the players and consistency with their performances as well. They had a fine run before losing a couple of games on the bounce towards the end of the league stages.
The Wellington Firebird started this 2019-20 Super Smash season with a comfortable win over Canterbury. They restricted them to 129 in 20 overs before chasing it down with eight balls to spare. They suffered a 24-run loss in the second game against the Central Districts as they failed to chase 184.
But they came storming back. The Wellington Firebird won three games in a row. Their batting took charge and stepped up as they racked up some big scores (in excess of 180). The bowlers backed it up nicely as well. They won one game by one-run before picking up a comprehensive 42-run win. They chased down 134 with ease as well to make it three in three.
A collective batting failure saw most batsmen throw away starts and none of them crossing the 30-run mark against Northern Knights. They lost that game before winning a couple more on the bounce. It was once again the batting that stepped up and put up big scores. They scored 188 batting first in one game while they hunted down 169 without the loss of any wicket.
Wellington Firebird were all set for a first-place finish on the points table. They did eventually finish on top but they lost momentum towards the end of the group stages. They failed to chase 148 against Canterbury while 165 didn’t prove to be enough against Auckland. Despite these two losses, Wellington’s position was at the top of the table with 24 points at the end of the group stages of the 2019-20 Super Smash. They directly got an entry into the final facing off against Auckland Aces.
Only Devon Conway scored 49, none of the other batsmen converted their starts again and there was a fear that it could be déjà vu from the group stages. However, the bowlers picked up wickets at regular intervals right through the innings to help the Wellington Firebird their third Super Smash title triumph.
And it wasn’t built on the success of one player. There were three to four players who formed the core, playing almost every game and standing up and delivering when the team was in need. Wellington Firebird have the highest run-getter of the tournament while they also have two of the highest wicket-takers in this season’s Super Smash.
Devon Conway was simply outstanding throughout the tournament. The left-handed opener amassed 543 runs at an average of 67.87. He also struck five half-centuries and a ton. Moreover, his strike-rate was 145.18 in the tournament. In fact, he could be termed as a one-man army with the bat. James Neesham and Michael Pollard also chipped in nicely. They were striking at more than 130 and had made more than 225 runs in the season. Neesham scored 229 runs and also picked up nine wickets while Pollard did not bowl at all. The mentioned players are the only three that have aggregated more than 200 runs.
It was the bowlers who hogged quite a bit of the limelight. Wellington Firebird had two bowlers heading the most wickets list. Hamish Bennett who recently received a callup to the West Indian team finished the tournament as the leading wicket-taker. He picked up 17 wickets at an average of 17.17 and conceded runs at an economy of 7.20. Meanwhile, Ollie Newton complemented him really well. He wasn’t too far behind either. Newton was slightly expensive but he took 16 wickets at an average of 21.25. Add to this, Neesham’s all-round ability and performances. Rachin Ravindra was also decent with both bat and ball and has been promising. In fact, in the middle order, he is a key player for the Wellington Firebirds.
Hence, the rest of the team revolves around these mentioned players. The likes of Logan van Beek, Tom Blundell, Matthew Bracewell and many others. Thus, it wasn’t an individual effort and the performances were consistent as well which led to the Firebirds leading to their fourth Super Smash final.