Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Cricket: Firebirds eliminate Aces

Malaesaili Tugaga is congratulated after taking the wicket of Lou Vincent in the first ball of the Auckland innings. Photo / Getty Images
Malaesaili Tugaga is congratulated after taking the wicket of Lou Vincent in the first ball of the Auckland innings. Photo / Getty Images

Fourteen minutes was all Jesse Ryder needed to dazzle the crowd at Wellington's Basin Reserve this afternoon.

If you had a quick snooze on the embankment in the sun you would have missed his brutal assault of Auckland's bowling attack, which set Wellington on the path to a huge total in the HRV Cup preliminary final.

Ryder faced only 17 balls but in that time plundered 46 runs - all in boundaries, with seven fours and three sixes - at the expense of bowlers Matt Quinn and Michael Bates.

Ryder's quickfire innings laid the platform for stand-in skipper Michael Papps to carry the torch with an unbeaten 70 as Wellington posted 182-4 on a belter of a wicket.

The total proved too much for the defending champions, who were held to 159-8 as Wellington recorded a 23-run win.

Wellington's victory earned them the right to meet Otago in the HRV Cup final in Dunedin on Sunday and Ryder said it was a great feeling to have the opportunity to win a trophy.

"It's been a long time coming," Ryder said. "The boys have worked real hard this season and results are showing so it'll be good to get down there on Sunday and give it a good crack."

Ryder's form throughout the HRV Cup has been sensational and in his past six outings he has logged scores of 60, 62, 37, 6, 85* and 46.

"It's coming out of the middle at the moment so I can't complain," he said.

Papps' knock was straight out of the manual for how to build an innings from No 3 in Twenty20 cricket.

The former international, who still harbours dreams of returning to the Black Caps, began slowly as he made only four from his first nine balls but ramped up the scoring rate at the right time as he belted four fours and as many sixes in his 48-ball knock.

A few lusty blows at the end of the innings from Papps and Luke Ronchi saw them set the visitors a demanding target.

Wellington got off to the perfect start with the ball when young seamer Ili Tugaga had Auckland opener Lou Vincent trapped in front with the first delivery of the innings.

"Ili bowled really well," Ryder said. "Since he's come in to the team he's been awesome for us so I'm loving his work."

Spinner Mark Houghton then gobbled up a return catch to send Gareth Hopkins on his way as Auckland found themselves in a spot of bother at 12-2.

Australian import Aaron Finch set about rescuing the run chase as he hammered 44, adding 72 with Craig Cachopa for the third wicket.

But when former international Luke Woodcock bowled Finch the wheels began to fall off Auckland's chase.

Paceman Scott Kuggeleijn removed Cachopa for 27 as the required run rate continued to climb.

Woodcock completed a tidy four over spell for 2-23 as he also sent Donovan Grobbelaar on his way.

When Auckland needed 58 from the final four overs Ryder was given the ball and stepped up with a brilliant over that conceded only four runs and yielded the key wicket of the big-hitting Colin de Grandhomme.

With 54 needed from the remaining 18 deliveries the mountain was too big for Auckland to climb as Wellington banked a clinical win.

As for Otago, who topped the table after the round-robin with nine wins from 10 games, Ryder said they were an organised outfit who bowled to their plans.

"They've been top of the table and on a roll, but that roll - it should be about time it's knocked off so hopefully we can get down there and topple them.''


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