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Talking about names, the Super Smash’s current moniker is five years old. In its inaugural season in 2015 it was called the New Zealand Twenty20 Competition but the very next year – for God knows what reasons – it was renamed to the State Twenty20. The new name also lasted just two seasons, with the 2009-10 rendition seeing a rebranding to the HRV Cup, which survived four years. The next season, the league was known as the HRV Twenty20 but that was retired, too, after a single year.
They finally settled for the Super Smash in 2014-15 and it has stuck since. But knowing the shifty nature of the organizers, don’t be surprised if another change is made soon.
All of this name changing business has been the doing of New Zealand Cricket, which itself has undergone a name change and was formerly known as New Zealand Cricket Council. See what we’re dealing with, here?
The constant re-branding means that the Super Smash’s jostle for prominence amid a glut of T20 leagues has had multiple setbacks. Also not helping are the facts that New Zealand and Super Smash quite literally exist under the shadow of Australia and its Big Bash and also share the same window on the cricket calendar.
Anyway, as it has been established, Super Smash’s earliest incarnation was in 2005-6 season. The six-team tournament comprised Auckland, Canterbury, Northern Districts, Central Districts, Wellington and Otago – teams formed and named in line with the zeitgeist of the times.
In this day and age, you would expect a six-team T20 event to produce between 33 and 35 matches, depending on the format. But those were weird times. The uncomplicatedly named “New Zealand Twenty20 Competition” spanned only seven matches, which also included the final, where Canterbury triumphed.
Thankfully, that peculiarity was remedied the very next year, with a better format producing 25 matches, and the number steadily grew over the next few years albeit a few fluctuations. Currently, the Super Smash sees 32 matches, including a preliminary final and the actual final.
Despite so much tweaking with the name and format, the league has retained the same six teams from start till now, and for that we have to be thankful to its organizers.
The first four seasons all saw new champions, with the first repeat winners emerging in 2009-10 when Central Stags (now Central Districts) won it for the second time. Auckland then won two straight and have since become the most consistent and successful side, with four first-place and as many second-place finishes.
Wellington also have four championships but boast only a single runners-up finish. Central have three titles, Northern two, Otago also two and Canterbury just one, which they won in the very first year of the league – the one with just seven matches – and so they might as well be considered title-less.
While collectively, from start till now, all versions of the league have seen no clear cut dominant side, the Super Smash era has remained in control of Wellington Firebirds, who have won three of the last five competitions, including both of the most recent ones.
In this year’s final, Wellington defeated Canterbury Kings by five wickets and lost just a single game in the entire competition. Twenty-one-year-old batsman Finn Allen (512) and South Africa-born Devon Conway (455), both openers, laid the foundation of most of their victories, finishing as the top two highest scoring batsmen in the tournament.
Such was Wellington’s form that by the time the final came, they were installed as 1.51 favorites against Canterbury (2.51), which is a pretty decent margin.
Conway’s exploits with the Firebirds earned him his T20I debut last year and he’s already done some stellar work with the Black Caps. Allen should get a chance soon, too. With their top two batters’ best years ahead of them, it is very likely that Wellington would keep on reaping the rewards and still be competitive, if not be the team to beat, in the years ahead.
Two-time winners Northern District have had a rough time of late but possess a number of Kiwi internationals. Don’t be surprised if they turn it around next season and make a deep run.