The Wellington-based franchise has been the most successful team in the history of the competition. Off the 13 seasons so far, the Blaze have emerged as champions in six. The defending champions were the first team to book their place in the top three this season. However, a close defeat against Auckland Hearts in their final league game saw the Blaze slip down from the top of the points table. As a result, they had to face Hearts yet again in the eliminator. Only this time, they came through with a comfortable victory courtesy to the all-round performance of Amelia Kerr.
One of the salient features of the Blaze's approach this season is the way New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine has taken on the opposition with the bat. After coming to the party late, Devine set the tournament on fire with a record-breaking 36-ball century on her first appearance. Her scores, since, read 59, 80, 13, 88, 6, and 33. In seven innings, the allrounder has amassed 387 runs at an insane strike rate of 177.52. No one has scored more runs this season, and among those who scored a minimum of 50 runs, nobody has done it faster than her. Her approach has made life easier for the teammates who bat around her. In the final against Magicians, Devine is the most crucial player for Blaze to provide the start they need.
Sophie Devine hit the fastest T20 ton in the women's game.
Was she in a hurry? Did she have a train to catch?@sophdevine77 tells @radhalathgupta about it on #BeyondTheBoundary Live. #SuperSmashhttps://t.co/kCZjt2A75L pic.twitter.com/ndQSNq2Im2
— Women's CricZone (@WomensCricZone) January 29, 2021
Barring her, only Amelia Kerr and their captain Maddy Green have crossed 200 runs this season for the Blaze. And often when they were in trouble, it was Amelia who has bailed them out. With four fifties and 11 wickets, she has been the central cog of the wheel for the Blaze. When they briefly struggled in the eliminator, it was she who turned it around for the Blaze.
In the bowling department, Leigh Kasperek and Jess Kerr are leading the charge with 14 and 11 wickets this season. Kasperek, who missed the eliminator due to injury concerns, has passed the fitness test and is back in the squad for the final. Playing in front of their home crowd with a full-strength squad, the Blaze would be keen defend the title for the fourth time in a row, a record that has not done before in the tournament.
Led by Frances Mackay, the Magicians will be playing the Super Smash final for the tenth time in fourteen years. They have been the most consistent franchise of the tournament, winning the title four times. However, it has been a while since they had their hands on the trophy. The last time they won the title was in 2015-16. If one had to make a comparison, it would be fair to say that they are the Chennai Super Kings of Super Smash. The Chennai-based franchise has made it to the final of the Indian Premier League eight times and won it thrice.
They did not have a perfect start to this season, winning only three matches in their first six encounters. However, they have peaked at the right time and are on a roll. The Magicians have gained some momentum in the second half of the league winning their last four matches.
Throughout this season, Amy Satterthwaite has been the most consistent batter for them. Second in the run-getter list behind Devine, the left-hander has made 364 runs in 10 innings averaging 60.66 and striking at 134.31. Kate Ebrahim, Natalie Cox and Frances Mackay have provided ample support to Satterthwaite by batting around her. Unlike Wellington, they have gone past the 140-run mark only once this season. Despite not scoring many big scores, the Magicians have managed to trump their oppositions consistently because of their bowling.
Even with the ball, the way they operate is very different from the Blaze. Though their captain Mackay leads the bowling charts with 19 wickets in 10 matches, others, too, have made significant contributions. Lea Tahuhu and Gabrielle Sullivan have taken nine and eight wickets respectively; Sarah Asmussen, Jacinta Savage and Satterthwaite have five scalps each. They have complimented each other well and made sure that they get the job done for the team as a unit.
Now that the Magicians have already been compared to CSK, it would not be wrong to say that the Blaze are the Mumbai Indians of Super Smash. It is a battle between two champion teams, one - a champion powerhouse - and the other - the most consistent team in the league. Irrespective of whether the Magicians end their trophy drought or the Blaze continue their reign, a mouthwatering contest awaits.