Knights overcome Firebirds to top standings
A sensational opening partnership rocketed the Northern Knights to the top of the HRV Cup standings in Mount Maunganui today.
The Knights chased down a massive total against the Wellington Firebirds at Bay Oval to triumph with nine wickets and an over in hand at 200 for one.
Pursuing Wellington's imposing 197-4, set when the visitors batted first after winning the toss, the hosts did it in a canter for their fifth win in seven matches to push them ahead of yesterday's foes and the Otago Volts in the quest for an automatic place in a home final.
The Knights opening duo of Anton Devcich and Brad Wilson steered their side on their successful chase by producing a record stand for the Knights in their HRV Cup history.
When Wilson brought up his 50, the Knights had reached 110 without loss midway through their pursuit.
Devcich's half-century followed in the next over and the pair continued until Wilson perished in the 16th over on 74, with their partnership worth 165. That obliterated the past best mark for the Knights for an opening partnership, while also going past the previous best for any wicket for the Knights of 127.
Like the visitors, the Knights also profited from a missed opportunity in the field to change the complexion of the game, with the much-heralded glovesman Luke Ronchi missing a gilt-edged stumping chance off left-arm spinner Mark Houghton to get Wilson out. The opener was on 30 when Ronchi failed to glove the chance, and the 27-year-old who has struggled mightily to find form this season responded by finishing with nine fours and two sixes in his 49-ball knock.
Devcich fittingly hit the winning runs and ended unbeaten on 92, with 11 fours and two sixes from 57 balls in his breakthrough innings in this competition.
The home side's hopes at the break between innings appeared slim after a sub-standard performance with the ball and in the field.
Knights coach Grant Bradburn told the Waikato Times before the encounter that his bowlers and fielders needed to be at their sharpest to restrict the carnage caused by Jesse Ryder.
However, they erred in line and length after a promising start and then captain Scott Styris's hands let him down when the left-handed opener offered a chance to end his demolition job.
Ryder was in full bloom when he struck the first ball Ish Sodhi bowled in his HRV Cup debut to Styris at extra-cover, but the veteran limited-overs specialist spilled the catch to the dismay of his team-mates and somewhat to the joy of the large crowd enjoying Ryder's hitting display.
On 40 at the time, Ryder made 22 more in effortless fashion before punching Bradley Scott down to long-off to be caught by Corey Anderson. His 62 came from 37 balls, including five sixes and five fours, and featured an array of wonderfully-timed and seemingly effortless shots that even the best bowling lineup would have struggled to inhibit.
His partner and crime at the top of the order, Bangladesh import Tamim Iqbal, also flourished with 68 off 49 balls, with four fours and four sixes, and struck the ball beautifully down the ground.
He did however appear to get a second life when umpire Gary Baxter turned down a hugely confident caught behind appeal off Styris when on 30 and the Firebirds rollicking along at 97-1 after 11 overs.
The Knights went through seven bowlers trying without joy to restrict the run-rate, but their rival quintet fared worse.
NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS
Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui
Tamim Iqbal c JAH Marshall b BJ Arnel 68
JD Ryder c CJ Anderson b BE Scott 62
L Ronchi c BS Wilson b CJ Anderson 13
GD Elliott c JAH Marshall b BE Scott 21
AD Mascarenhas not out 21
SC Kuggeleijn not out 6
Extras (lb 3, wd 3, nb 0) 6
Total (for 4 wickets, 20.0 overs) 197
Fall: 1-90 (JD Ryder, 9.6), 2-144 (L Ronchi, 15.3), 3-155 (Tamim Iqbal, 16.2), 4-170 (GD Elliott, 17.5)
Bowling: SB Styris 3-0-27-0, BJ Arnel 4-0-28-1 (2w, CJ Anderson 3-0-30-1, GW Aldridge 1-0-15-0, IS Sodhi 4-0-33-0, BE Scott 4-0-46-2 (1w, AP Devcich 1-0-15-0.
AP Devcich not out 92
BS Wilson c DS Hutchinson b JD Ryder 74
SJ Croft not out 17
Extras (lb 2, wd 13, nb 2) 17
Total (for 1 wicket, 19.0 overs) 200
Fall: 1-165 (BS Wilson, 15.2)
Bowling: MV Houghton 4-0-33-0, AD Mascarenhas 4-0-48-0 (3w, SC Kuggeleijn 3-0-43-0, DS Hutchinson 4-0-42-0 (2w, 1nb), JD Ryder 4-0-32-1 (1nb).