Women's Super Smash T20 Final: Wellington Blaze claim fifth title in last-ball thriller
The New Zealand Women's Super Smash T20 competition for 2018/19 culminated in a fantastic finale. Wellington Blaze were crowned champions after an exciting last-ball win over rivals the Canterbury Magicians at the Eden Park Outer Oval in Auckland.
On an exceptional batting wicket under blue skies, the Blaze appeared to be in control for the majority of the chase of 132, but White Ferns International Sophie Devine's wicket triggered a shift in momentum towards the Magicians side.
Canterbury skipper Frances McKay tasked herself with bowling the last over with eight runs needed. With the scores level on the last ball, Suzie McDonald and Jess Kerr scampered for a single which McKay fielded in her follow through but missed with her throw to the stumps which would have taken the teams to a super over.
Unfortunately, it's a game of inches and while it was glory for the Blaze, it was heartbreak for the Magicians in a contest where the two sides were barely separated. Ultimately Wellington got over the line for their fifth T20 title, now the most in New Zealand Women's domestic cricket.
Bermingham, Ebrahim set the platform after early setbacks
The Men's match which took place on the same pitch earlier saw 180 scored in both innings, so there was an expectation for the Women's match to be high-scoring in proportion to that, on what was a traditionally hard, flat Eden Park Outer Oval pitch.
Skipper McKay, just recalled to the White Ferns after a five year absence having had a superb season with the Canterbury outfit, chose to bat first after winning the toss.
With four of Canterbury's batswoman in the top 10 run scorers this season, there was plenty to ponder for the Blaze, who welcomed the return of key player Sophie Devine after her recent stint with the Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL. Meanwhile, Canterbury's White Ferns, Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite were unavailable having just wrapped up their season with the Melbourne Renegades on Saturday.
But the early wicket of McKay, the season's top run-scorer with 367 runs, was a heavy blow for the Magicians early on. Taking on a tight single, Aley Evans had McKay caught short at the keepers end with a direct hit for 11.
When her opening partner, Kirsty Nation, looked to launch Devine over long-off but could only succeed to lifting the ball straight to her, Canterbury were in a precarious position at 23 for 2 in the sixth over.
Erin Bermingham and Kate Ebrahim had been part of the mainstays of the Canterbury batting line-up this season, but came in earlier than usual and found themselves having to rebuild the innings.
It allowed the Blaze bowlers to apply the brakes, as the run rate stayed at around 5 to 6 per over for the majority of the innings. Bermingham would eventually launch, playing especially well square behind the wicket and towards mid-wicket as the Magicians made a big push to get over the 120-mark.
The partnership would form the backbone of the innings to allow a final flourish, realising 86 off 74 balls. Ebrahim was eventually caught for a run-a-ball 38 which included three boundaries herself, before Bermingham would add 21 runs in the last two overs to finish unbeaten on 61 off 49 balls with six fours. While below par, it gave the Magicians runs on the board in the final, as they finished on 130 for 3.
The Blaze bowlers were relatively consistent, doing a good job of tying up Canterbury for the majority of the innings before the late onslaught. Devine and Jess Kerr took a wicket apiece.
Wellington get over the line in a thrilling finish
A target of 131 was probably not going to be enough to deter the Wellington batting line-up unless the Magicians produced some wickets early. And they duly obliged with Bermingham continuing her great match by having Lucy Doolan lbw in the second over to provide the initial breakthrough.
Thereafter, Devine and Rebecca Burns combined for a second-wicket stand of 69 off 61 balls to steady the Blaze's chase. They were cautious for the most part, as the Magicians' attack bowled tightly in tandem to keep the run rate in check. However, a dropped catch and missed stumping off Burns could have turned the game in their direction even further.
The rate increased to around eight runs per over before Devine broke the shackles, launching Jacinta Savage for three sixes over square leg in the tenth over, which went for 20 runs. It gave the Blaze the ascendancy again, requiring 62 off the last ten overs with nine wickets in hand.
Devine's dismissal, however, the first of three run outs, changed the game yet again as McKay produced a smart piece of work off her own bowling to catch her short of her ground at the keeper's end after she initially went looking for a single. When Burns was caught not long after the Magicians sensed an opening, with the Blaze still requiring 46 runs off the last seven overs.
Amelia Kerr played a calm knock from there, making 28 off 27 balls and slowly but surely guiding Wellington towards the target. Though Canterbury were not to be deterred, having Kerr run out before Ebrahim bowled out skipper Liz Perry to leave a showdown in the last over.
Neither team blinked with the older Kerr sister squeezing out a couple of threes over cover before a tense last-ball saw the Blaze get home and cement their status as champions for the T20 season.
Brief Scores: Canterbury Magicians - 130/3 from 20 overs (Bermingham 61*, Ebrahim 30, J Kerr 1/25, Devine 1/28) lost to Wellington Blaze - 131/6 from 20 overs (Burns 41, Devine 31, Ebrahim 1/17, Bermingham 1/20) by four wickets