Cricket: Auckland breeze past Wellington

They say cricket's a funny game and if that's the case then Twenty20 is downright bizarre at times.

Seven days ago Wellington looked an impressive unit as they breezed past Canterbury in their opening HRV Cup game, but tonight (fri) they were given a stern lesson by Auckland at Westpac Stadium.

Auckland are an intriguing-looking side on paper. They're full of former internationals, players who never quite made the big time and a couple of up-and-comers.

Tonight they also boasted Australian Brad Hodge who flew in for a one-off guest appearance.

But, whatever coach Paul Strang tells his side in their team meetings it obviously sticks because Auckland have won the HRV Cup for the past two years and tonight's five-wicket win indicated they will be a force again this summer.

Auckland won the toss and elected to field on a breezy Wellington evening and they had the home side under the pump from the second over.

Jesse Ryder hit the first two balls of the innings for four but after that there was a steady precession of wickets as only little-known Australian import Cameron Borgas put up any major resistance for Wellington.

The 29-year-old stroked a vital 50 before he was eventually dismissed by left-arm seamer Mitchell McClenaghan who was impressive as he picked up 3-18 from four overs.

Debutant Scott Kuggeleijn was the only other Wellington batsman to provide much work for the scorers as he swung his way to 24, but it was all too little too late as the Firebirds were bowled out on the final ball of their innings for 116.

Auckland made sure they got their moneys worth out of Hodge, as he was summoned to the bowling crease to wheel down his part-time off-spinners and the 37-year-old returned figures of 3-16 from three overs.

A total like 116 was never going to be much of an obstacle for Auckland and former international Lou Vincent made a well-struck 45 from 46 balls to lay the platform for the visitors, while Hodge chipped in with 22.

Wellington import Shaun Tait produced a few thunderous deliveries and was clocked at 144kph by the speed ball radar at the ground as he took 2-33 to give Auckland's chase the wobbles.

Eventually though, Colin de Grandhomme and Craig Cachopa finished off the game in the 18th over, but not before the small crowd were given a treat when Colin Munro struck a towering six that landed on the roof of Westpac Stadium.

Short scoreboard: Wellington 116 (Cameron Borgas 50, Scott Kuggeleijn 24; Brad Hodge 3-16, Mitchell McClenaghan 3-18) lost to Auckland 117-5 (Lou Vincent 45, Brad Hodge 22; Luke Woodcock 2-28, Shaun Tait 2-33) by 5 wickets.

- Daniel Richardson of APNZ

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