Last-ball thriller sees Kings into Final - again

A knockout game fought to the very last ball had looked for all money to be headed the Wellington Firebirds' way until a heart-stopping last over saw the Kings make their fourth Grand Final in four years.

Where to begin with one of the great Elimination Final spectacles?

The first innings had seen the Firebirds build their pile of runs brilliantly to reach a strong 173/7 after captain Nick Kelly had won the toss.

The showstopper had been a ballistic Michael Bracewell who took charge after he came in during the 13th over at 73/4.

The Beast was back. The ball was flying over the rope and then some as he freed his shoulders and got that big frame behind the ball. Boom off Ish Sodhi! Boom off Matt Henry! Boom off Zak Foulkes!

Bracewell hit six sixes and just one four in an entertaining unbeaten 54* off just 24 rocks, and he had great support from young Mo Abbas who chimed in with three sixes and a boundary of his own in his 32 off 21.

It was just the kind of escalation the Firebirds had needed, after the Kings had been on top early with the ball.

Henry and Foulkes had conceded just six runs between them from their opening overs, before big Kyle Jamieson swung in to take the first wicket in Gareth Severin, breaking the Firebirds first-time opening pairing of Severin and Devon Conway at 9/0 in the third.

Foulkes struck next over with Rachin Ravindra gone quickly, but Kelly (33) and Conway (23) stayed calm and rebuilt at a critical time.

The experienced pair put on 43 for the third wicket in the space of five overs before Kings captain Cole McConchie struck with the huge wicket of Conway at 56/3.

Nearing the halfway mark of the innings, the Kings still would have been happy with the containment - but the heavy hitting was yet to come.

It was Ish Sodhi who took out his old Counties Manukau clubmate Kelly LBW in the 13th and that brought together the brutal duo of Bracewell and Abbas.

Foulkes managed to pick up another two wickets, stopping not only Abbas, but a dangerous Nathan Smith who had galloped to 14 off just eight balls, for a handy 3/31.

Little did anyone know then that his most memorable moment would come with the bat.

Needing almost nine an over from the outset, the Kings looked to Chad Bowes to get them a good start and he found the rope early, carving two boundaries off Adam Milne's opening over, and another brace as well as a six as he helped take 15 off Smith.

But in the meantime, Smith had already taken the first big wicket, Tom Latham departing for a golden duck - brilliantly scooped up, one-handed and diving, by Logan van Beek at a wide slip.

Henry Nicholls soon followed, this time off van Beek with Adam Milne diving at full stretch to take another great catch in a wicket maiden for the allrounder.

It was 25/2 and the Firebirds were on fire on the sweltering Hamilton afternoon.

But just as the Wellingtonians had done with Conway and captain Kelly, the Kings settled the dust down with captain McConchie and Bowes whose 46-run partnership for the third kept the Kings ticking over for the next seven overs.

It was a huge moment when Ben Sears broke through in the 10th over, Bowes stopped just short of a half ton (46 off 33) as Michael Bracewell's big mitts in the deep got under the catch.

A few overs later it was an action replay as Bracewell caught McConchie (53 off 38) off Sears as well, the Kings now 108/4 after 14 and still needing 66 runs at 11 an over.

The dangermen kept coming though, Mitch Hay and BJ Jacobs both powerful strikers of a ball.

When Jacobs was caught early, Ravindra was over the moon. Tight work from Milne and van Beek then led to a a great little battle to remove Hay as the scoring rate slowed at the death. The Firebirds were climbing back on top.

Hay (38 off 28) had just pumped Milne for six when the fast bowler struck back and had him caught in the middle of the penultimate over: 151/6. Milne then conceded just a single off each of his last three balls, as the pendulum swung further towards the capital.

The allrounder who had had such a fine game took the ball for the last over, the Kings 154/6 with a fresh man at the crease in Matt Henry and a steep 20 runs needed off the six balls.

It started well for van Beek, Henry able to eek out only a single.

Then came a leg bye, and two wides as van Beek tried to go wide-hole - interspersed with a clean Henry six that sailed straight over his head.

After the third extra, van Beek looked to york Henry, but missed his length and Henry walloped the full toss out of the ground as well.

Now the heat was on the Firebirds, all of sudden, and van Beek made sure Henry could take just a single off the penultimate ball. So now, Foulkes on strike, and three needed off the last delivery.

The 21-year-old allrounder from Canterbury Country knew there was only one way to make absolutely certain of it.

Van Beek was left kicking himself as he missed his length again in a hot-and-cold last over, Foulkes slamming the full toss into the depths of the spectator galley.

The Kings had clinched it by the skin of their teeth, and the men who had got them across the line were the same two bowlers who had made such a big start with the ball.

It would be a Kings-Aces Grand Final after all, don't miss a ball this Sunday afternoon at Eden Park.