Canterbury Kings v Wellington Firebirds
New Zealand Super Smash Elimination Final, January 27
University of Otago Oval, Dunedin (11pm UK, Jan 26)
This has been one heck of an entertaining competition.
At the risk of getting tongue-tied, it really has been a super Super Smash!
When Trent Boult hit the final ball of a pre-Christmas clash for six over mid-wicket with his Northern Brave side 102-9 chasing 108 to beat Canterbury, it was a moment which sent social media into a frenzy.
Just days on from that, another New Zealand fast bowler, Lockie Ferguson, did his best to match the left-armer. Playing for Auckland against Central Districts, Ferguson cleared the ropes with the penultimate ball when five were needed to win.
And what about Michael Bracewell’s stunning 65-ball 141 for Wellington Firebirds earlier this month as they recovered from 43-5 to chase 228 against Central Stags?
The Wellington captain recorded the highest individual score ever seen in New Zealand T20 cricket.
Three to fight it out for title – finalists Brave the favourites
Star-studded Northern Brave topped the group table, winning each of their last eight games, to qualify directly for Saturday’s final on home turf at Seddon Park.
A team featuring internationals Tim Seifert, Jeet Raval, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitch Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi and Trent Boult will face the winner of this Elimination final between second-placed Canterbury and third-placed Wellington.
This game will be played at a neutral venue in Dunedin, owing to the fact that there is a women’s Elimination final later in the day between local side Otago Sparks and Auckland Hearts.
They are fighting it out to face finalists Wellington Blaze at Seddon Park on Saturday.
Expect high-scoring effective semi-final
In seven of the last 13 T20 men’s games played at Dunedin dating back to December 2018, including an international between New Zealand and Australia in February of last year, both teams have topped totals of 170.
In the other six games, twice both teams have topped 160.
That aforementioned international saw New Zealand win by only four runs when defending a total of 219-7.
Wellington have the highest total in this season’s competition to their name – 228-8, with Canterbury not far behind with a 221-5.
That leads me to think that the total match runs should exceed the 335.5 which bet365 are offering at 5/6 on both over and under – over should be the play.
That total has been exceeded 10 times in the competition so far, including twice out of the three games played at Dunedin.
Devon Conway just loves the big occasion
Every time I watch Devon Conway, the left-handed New Zealand batter, he impresses me more and more.
Conway may have posted two single-figure scores in his last two Super Smash appearances for Wellington over the last week, but he started the month with back-to-back Test centuries against Bangladesh.
He will form a dangerous opening partnership with Finn Allen, the tall right-hander who played for Lancashire last summer.
I would find it difficult to go against Conway such is his quality when it counts. Test double century on debut at Lord’s summer is just one example.
He is 13/5 to be Wellington’s top run-scorer with bet365, the second favourite behind Allen (5/2) However perhaps the better bet is the 3/1 they offer for Conway to score a fifty in the match.
Given the likelihood for a high-scoring contest, and with Allen and Bracewell in his side, it could be that he scores a fifty and is still usurped as his team’s top batter.
Match winners difficult to pick
As you may have guessed with not pointing you towards pre-match win odds, nailing down a winner in the men’s game is difficult.
Canterbury are 4/6 favourites and Wellington 6/5. If you were forcing my hand, I would have to go with the Firebirds.
I certainly fancy Otago Sparks (4/6), a team led by Suzie Bates, to overcome Auckland Hearts in the women’s game which starts at approximately 3.10am UK.
Maybe a double on Wellington men and Otago women at approximately 3.67/1 could offer interest through the night with BT Sport.