Northern Knights edge closer to Twenty20 final
The Northern Knights blasted their way one match closer to the Twenty20 grand final in Hamilton.
A 40-run victory over the Auckland Aces tonight pushed the Knights to the top of the domestic competition on net run-rate over the Otago Volts with one match left before the finals.
Both sides have 24 points from nine matches.
The hosts made an imposing 200 for seven at Seddon Park and Auckland ended their 20 overs at 160-9.
The top side at the end of the round-robin section automatically qualifies for the grand final to be held at Seddon Park next Saturday night. The second and third-placed teams will play for the other spot at the same venue on Friday.
Scott Styris and Daryl Mitchell blasted the hosts into a dominant position as the Knights whacked 77 off the last five overs.
Styris, fresh off a scintillating match-winning innings against the Aces in Auckland on Wednesday, plundered four sixes and two fours in making 43 off only 20 balls while Mitchell was equally effective, hammering an unbeaten 42 off just 19 balls (two sixes and two fours).
Australian import Dan Harris was another key contributor for the hosts, making 56 off 38 balls at No 3 to set the Knights on their way
to a handy tally.
Harris, released by his Big Bash franchise the Melbourne Renegades for two matches this week, registered his third half-century in six appearances for Northern in the competition this season. The guest player has now provided 250 runs from 169 balls for the Knights.
Knights captain Daniel Flynn won the toss, chose to bat and after losing fellow opener Anton Devcich early, Flynn and Harris got the score quickly ticking over. Flynn made 26 off 20 balls and put on 49 for the second wicket before Styris and Mitchell increased the tempo in the latter stages.
The innings featured a rarity of a six to Mitchell, when an overthrow from Michael Bates - as Mitchell came back for a second run - went to the boundary.
Former Knights left-arm spinner Bruce Martin was harshly treated by his previous team-mates, conceding 42 runs off his three overs.
Northern's left-arm tweaker Devcich then ripped into Auckland's top order by taking two wickets in as many deliveries by dismissing Anaru Kitchen and Gareth Hopkins in the opening over of the Aces's reply.
Craig Cachopa raced to 47 off 30 balls with seven fours and a six before becoming Devcich's third victim while dangerman Colin de Grandhomme smashed 31 off 14 but Northern's spinners held the upper hand.
Devcich ended with 3-21 off three overs, Black Caps leg-spinner Ish Sodhi took 3-43 off his four overs and Kane Williamson was miserly in giving up just 16 from his three overs. After being expensive early, NZ test quick Trent Boult collected 3-35 off four.
The Canterbury Wizards easily defeated the Wellington Firebirds in Christchurch today to climb into a share of third place with 20 points from nine matches. Wellington completed their campaign with 20 points from 10 games while Auckland have 16 from nine.
The Knights will finish their round-robin campaign with an away match
against Canterbury tomorrow (digital - Sunday), while Otago's last game is against the bottom-placed Central Stags.