23 January 2018

Knights Reign Supreme at Seddon Park

The Knights are New Zealand's 2018 Burger King Super Smash champions, and they mopped it up in a phenomenal style with an utterly one-sided nine-wicket victory over the Central Stags.

The top qualifiers were in the box seat midway through the big game after restricting the Stags to 99 on a slow deck - the ball swinging at the top in the humid conditions, but the Stags largely only with themselves to blame for digging themselves into a mire after their top and middle order stars fell over like dominoes.
Dane Cleaver might count his dismissal unlucky, but the team situation left Ajaz Patel (11 not out) and Bevan Small (21 not out) to tough out the final five overs from a predicament of 69 for eight.

George Worker was the only batsman to garner a score of note, knuckling down for a promising 37 off 33 as the carnage went on around him - starting with the loss of opening partner Jesse Ryder in the first over after captain Will Young had won the toss and batted.

Worker was crucially stopped by a brilliant one-handed leap from Knights captain Dean Brownlie, bowler Anton Devcich leading a raucous celebration from the team.

Seddon Park was warm - it felt like 30 degrees in the middle - the weather had come to the party and the stage was set for a fantastic contest, but even so - with a short landslide of a game - the 5000-strong crowd of pink-clad supporters went home very happy.

BLACKCAPS legspinner Ish Sodhi's 2-15 off his four was outstanding and his fiery competitiveness exemplified the home side's intention to deliver in the crunch match.
Anton Devcich (an unbeaten 51 off 24) meanwhile spun in for 3-16 as the Knights did an ocean of damage to the Stags through the middle, while Scott Kuggeleijn's pace earlier quickly accounted for the big wickets of form horse Young and BLACKCAP Tom Bruce, whose ability to score quickly was missed as the Stags' order for once unravelled.

Chasing exactly 100 to win, the Knights should not have had too many nerves at halftime but if there were any, they were quickly eased by Devcich and Tim Seifert (23) who got them off to a fast start.

Seifert's was the only wicket to fall, but by then the Knights were already almost a third of a way through their run chase and the brief moment of jubilation for Blair Tickner quickly turned to custard as Dean Brownlie (28 not out off 17) and Devcich combined to slaughter him for five fours off the fifth over.

They then turned on another of the summer's top wicket-takers, spinner Ajaz Patel, slapping him for four every single ball off the following over: 10 boundaries in a row all up, with the fire cannons working overtime to the delight of the home crowd.
By the end of those rousing two overs, the Knights needed just 23 further runs to win, a formality as they hurtled to a special win 11.1 overs to spare.

It was a first-up victory for Knights coach Gareth Hopkins and a pleasant case of déja vu for several of this Knights team that had been involved in the 2014 title win on this same ground - the likes of Sodhi, Kuggelelijn and Daryl Mitchell.

Brent Arnel meanwhile is the only man in New Zealand who could call himself a back to back national T20 champion after having won this title with the Wellington Firebirds last year. 

That one last four from Devcich saw him pip Stags captain Will Young as the season's top run-maker while Tickner could only console himself with being the summer's runaway top wicket-taker as refocuses now on New Zealand's other domestic white ball comp, The Ford Trophy.

The Stags are currently narrowly leading that competition, and after today they'll be rock-hard determined not to be bridesmaids yet again.

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