Team Preview | Super Smash | Wellington Blaze
Written By: Jeet Vachharajani
Picture Courtesy: Cricket Wellington
Wellington Blaze is one of the best outfits in New Zealand domestic cricket when it comes to putting in consistent performances with a high impact. Last year, their domination was evident with 11/11 wins in the Super Smash and 5/6 wins (+5 games abandoned) in the HBJ Shield with their only loss coming in the finals of that tournament. It's a team that boasts of some of the top White Ferns with the perfect blend of talented youth coming through the ranks.
I put their success not only down to their squad strength but also to the incredible variety they have got in their bowling lineup. They have all bases covered when it comes to bowling types.
HISTORY OF BLAZE IN THE T20 DOMESTIC COMPETITIONS
No team has lifted the cup more than the Blaze in the history of New Zealand's domestic T20 tournament. They have lifted it 7 times and finished as runners-up on 2 occasions.
2008/09 - Champions (State League T20)
2012/13 - Champions (New Zealand Women's T20 competition)
2014/15 - Champions (New Zealand Women's T20 competition)
2017/18 - Champions (New Zealand Women's T20 competition)
2018/19 - Champions (Super Smash)
2019/20 - Champions (Super Smash)
2021/22 - Champions (Super Smash)
SQUAD FOR SUPER SMASH 2022
KEY FACTORS BEHIND THEIR LAST YEAR'S TRIUMPH
Powerplay bowling: Taking wickets in the powerplay is of utmost significance to a team's chances of winning the game and Wellington Blaze did just that over a consistent period of time. They tallied 23 wickets in this phase in the last Super Smash which was the highest for any team along with an average of 10.6 which was 11 runs lesser per wicket than the next-best team.
This was combined with tight spells of bowling by each bowler who bowled in this phase of the innings. The pace duo of Jess Kerr & Maneka Singh were the key contributors.
Utilization of Jess Kerr & Maneka Singh: Maddy Green and her leadership when it came to tactics were incredibly good. When you have two pacers who thrive on swing to take wickets, you utilize them in the PP to do the exact same job. A very high % of overs of Blaze's two swing bowlers in Jess Kerr & Maneka Singh came in the PP with a very limited role after that.
Green's smarts were evident when she gave an extended spell of 3 or even 4 overs to at least one of these two pacers and that is exactly how it should be done in T20 cricket. Something that I have been an advocate of for a long time. When you have two such pacers, you have the luxury to finish off at least one of the two bowler's full quota if there is even the slightest of movement on offer. Jess Kerr is good at the death, which meant that it made sense for at least one over of hers to be kept at the backend. But the key here was to frontload & it's exactly what they did with a great success rate.
Impact? Well here's the impact they had along with support from other bowlers that saw opponents crumble within the first 8 overs of the innings itself. It became a point of no return for the opponents. Blaze then just capitalized and didn't look back. Their idea was simple - Bat 1st to score 135+ and frontload their bowling to cause enough damage in the first 8-9 overs to seal the game.
Powerplay batting: The two finalists were the very teams that were the best with the bat in the powerplay. Blaze led the way with a run-rate of 7.8 in this phase of the game with the likes of Georgia Plimmer, Sophie Devine, & Rebecca Burns landing an early punch regularly.
Boundary-hitting: Blaze hit a staggering 159 boundaries across their 11 games which were 20 more than the next-best team in Otago, who played the same number of games. Only Central Hinds had a higher % of runs being scored in boundaries than the Blaze.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
1 - Georgia Plimmer:
Plimmer starts this Super Smash as a White Fern and quite rightly so. The numbers haven't backed her up, but she will be back opening the innings which is the ideal batting position for her.
2 - Xara Jetly: Blaze have got Leigh Kasperek for off-spin duties, but Jetly is still a very different type of off-spinners than Kasperek which allows Balze to have both in the playing XI. For Jetly, the role is primarily in the powerplay and at the death. I have never seen an off-spinner generate more drift than Jetl y in New Zealand cricket and that's exactly her specialty. That drift often catches the outside or the leading edge of the RHBs.
3 - Caitlin King: The right-arm pacer, Caitlin King generally chips in with overs in the middle phase. She took a hat-trick in the HBJ Shield this year and threatens the pads of the batters regularly with her attacking lines.
4 - Thamsyn Newton: The all-round pacer is likely to play the role that Sophie Devine plays as a support pacer who acts as an enforcer. Newton has got bouncers in her armory and they are good accurate ones too!
5 - Rebecca Burns: Burns is another player that enters this competition having now become a White Fern. There are very few players who can clear the ropes in New Zealand domestic cricket and Burns is one of them with solid slogging power to the leg coupled with a gift of timing through the off.
6 - Maneka Singh: New Zealand has a bunch of left-arm pacers in their system with most of them being in the U-19s. When it comes to the senior level, Maneka is the only established one in the circuit. Her new-ball bowling was vital last year as she did a significant amount of damage in the powerplay and Blaze would want her to continue doing that.
7 - Deanna Doughty: Ever watched Dane van Niekerk in action? Never mind - Watch Doughty in action and you shall know. The captain in the HBJ Shield is a wily wrist spinner who adds to Blaze's repertoire.
8 - Natasha Codyre: Codyre made her last year for the Blaze in the Super Smash. She is an U-19 player who recently toured India with the New Zealand development squad and has also been picked for the U-19 T20 World Cup 2023. She is a new ball bowler with a slingy action who gets to swing the ball away from the RHBs. With such an action, you could have a day when everything could go down the leg-side, but she is more than capable of bowling some testing spells and taking jay-dropping wickets that could beat the outside edge.
These players are in addition to the already established players in the squad: Sophie Devine, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Jess McFadyen, & Leigh Kasperek.