Styris leads Knights home

A brutal knock from skipper Scott Styris has bolstered the Northern Knights' chances of capturing the domestic Twenty20 title for the first time.

The former Black Caps allrounder blasted eight sixes during his 26-ball innings of 68 not out to almost single-handedly determine the outcome of their latest HRV Cup encounter versus the Auckland Aces in Auckland yesterday.

The match at Eden Park's Outer Oval was initially reduced to 12 overs per side due to a number of rain breaks, with the Knights reaching 142 for four.

Rain in the break between innings saw Auckland's target set at 73 from six overs but they finished their chase at 49-6 for a 23-run Knights victory under the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Styris hit three consecutive sixes in one over from Andre Adams, who conceded 55 runs from his three overs, as Styris and James Marshall (15 not out off 10 balls) added an unbeaten 73 off just 4.1 overs for the fifth wicket. That swung the game in the visitors' favour after Auckland grabbed the early initiative.

The Knights now lead the Cup with 16 points at the midway stage of their campaign. They have four wins from five matches after inflicting Auckland's first loss from the three matches the defending champs have played in the tournament, which started almost two months ago.

The Wellington Firebirds climbed into second spot with a 53-run win over the Central Stags at the Basin Reserve in the capital yesterday.

The 37-year-old Styris totally altered the complexion of a match which saw the Aces win the toss and elect to bowl under grey skies.

The Knights were without the Black Caps quintet of Kane Williamson, Daniel Flynn, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult and BJ Watling, who are in South Africa, while Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori were ruled out through injury.

The defending champions were also missing a handful of big names on international duty, with Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Colin Munro, Chris Martin and Bruce Martin also in South Africa.

The encounter had only witnessed five balls before the players were forced off by showers but, in that time, Knights opener Anton Devcich had edged Kyle Mills' first ball just short of Phil Mustard at first slip and through to the boundary for four. Later in the over, he off-drove Mills for another boundary.

Play resumed after a 45-minute break but they could only manage to complete the opening over and Matt Quinn's first over on debut for Auckland before drizzle forced them off again.

Mills picked up the wickets of opener Brad Wilson and English import Steven Croft as the visitors were forced by circumstances to adopt a cavalier attitude to accumulating runs. Mills, unwanted by the national limited-overs side, took 2-17 off his full complement of three overs.

Devcich made a rapid 28 off 17 balls (five fours and a six) but Auckland were still on top until the surprising introduction of Colin de Grandhomme to the bowling crease. The Knights took 18 off the first over from him and his second over went for 16 more. Fairfax NZ