In the mythical world of deities, demons and dragons, legend has it just one firebird feather can light up a room if not covered up.

Fantasy aside, the reality is the Central Districts Stags will desperately need to clip the wings of the Wellington variety of Firebirds in round six of the Ford Trophy one-day competition at the Basin Reserve from 11am today or say goodbye to their fast-fading dreams of a magical third consecutive domestic crown.

The predominantly ageing Firebirds have had the wood on the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags in the white-ball format this summer.

No cut goes deeper than their grand final collapse in the glitzy McDonald's Super Smash in New Plymouth last month with everyone, including Wellington, believing the game was captain William Young and his troops' to lose.


The Firebirds again prevailed in round two of the Ford Trophy in Napier by four wickets a fortnight ago, although Malan is at pains to point out CD were the only side to beat the Wellingtonians in T20.

"We were the only side in the last 10 games that beat them in the twenty20 [format]," he says, emphasising all their losses since have been by narrow margins.

"It's either we've been short of a couple of runs or short of a couple of wickets."

It's doesn't come easy but CD, who lost by 23 runs to Otago Volts in Palmerston North last Saturday, are big enough to acknowledge Wellington have played "some good cricket".

"It's well known that they have an older and experienced side and they have been playing some good cricket."

However, he sticks to the mantra that it will yet again be a good challenge for his young and restless men.

"We're finding ourselves on a different side of the spectrum after the last two seasons in this campaign as well this summer's twenty20 campaign so it's a bit of a [lesson] for the boys."

Malan says the Stags have to learn, especially in the white-ball format, they can't simply rock up and go through the motions.


Training, he says, has to be specifically engineered towards a simulation exercise of 300 balls.

Today Black Caps seamer Ben Wheeler and fellow new-ball merchant Seth Rance return to the mix from an injury hiatus.

But, respectfully, with no slight on Wheeler and Rance's contribution with the willow, bowling isn't where the problem lies even though the attack has been pretty raw in the form of Blair Tickner, Navin Patel and Liam Dudding.

Patel and Dudding make way today.

The common thread, going back to the T20 grand final loss, in the slump in form has been the inability of the top order to fire.

"It's always a challenge after a twenty20 campaign where there's a bit of hit and giggle, obliviously, with the short nature of the game but we've always spoken about being an adaptable side."


Sure someone has stepped up with a half ton on the odd occasion but the scant innings have been devoid of meaningful alliances for a team who, on paper, have had the promise of plenty but the prudent will argue the game is never won on paper.

Malan alludes to Wheeler and Rance's standout performances with the white ball but accepts batting is the bugbear.

"We can find a way to string some partnerships together, not necessarily partnerships through runs but partnerships through balls."

Malan has driven that point to his players with the routine of throw-downs in the nets but the question is whether the message is filtering through its monotony to the top order.

"It's basic skill and we just have to execute a little better. That's the same with the ball where, again, with the basics things we need to be a little better at."

Malan says how CD use the new ball and the dexterity with which they take the pace off are crucial.


But, as it turns out, the South African has a beef with the way his troops have handled proceedings on the paddock.

"Not taking anything away from the first two skills but the one thing we've been worse in throughout this campaign is our fielding.

"You know, we've always prided ourselves in our fielding so it's something we really, really work hard on but, unfortunately, we've been a little bit in scenario where those 49 to 51 per cent doesn't go our way."

Malan says last-placed CD have been managing half-stops rather than full ones as well as players coughing up one-handed and diving catches.

He feels Young and his men must simply ride through that turbulent phase to find some momentum against third-placed Wellington today.

The Firebirds are coming off a 135-run loss to ND Knights.


CD Stags: George Worker, Jesse Ryder, William Young (c), Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver (wk), Josh Clarkson, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Ben Smith, Blair Tickner, Ben Wheeler.

Wellington Firebirds: Michael Papps (wk), Stephen Murdoch, Scott Borthwick, Hamish Marshall (c), Michael Pollard, Luke Woodcock, Matt Taylor, Anurag Verma, Jeetan Patel, Brent Arnel, Iain McPeake, Ollie Newton.