Knights' Anton Devcich ready to make his mark
This is when Anton Devcich wants to make his international experience count.
Called into the Black Caps for tours to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the back end of last year, the 28-year-old Hamiltonian now wants to prove he's made for the top level by taking a crucial playoff match by the scruff of the neck for Northern Districts.
The Knights take on the Canterbury Wizards in the preliminary final of the domestic Twenty20 competition at Hamilton's Seddon Park tonight, with the winner to face the Otago Volts in tomorrow night's final, at the same venue.
Devcich looms as a key man for ND in their quest to win the title for the first time and secure a berth at the qualification tournament for the lucrative Champions League.
At the top of the order, the dashing left-hander will be looked to to get the Knights' strike rate roaring early, while his let-arm orthodox spinners are also set to play a crucial role in tying down Canterbury's batsmen.
Devcich has taken the new ball and often made immediate impact, twice taking two wickets in the first over of the innings.
Having missed the first four games of ND's campaign due to international duty, he has played in the last six and contributed two half centuries and six wickets, along with sharp efforts in the field.
But it's this weekend that Devcich is hoping to peak for.
"It's good coming back with the boys. You do get that little bit of confidence knowing that you've played at international level, and hopefully it starts paying off in the next couple of games, hopefully I can win a game for the boys," he said.
Devcich thoroughly enjoyed his stint with the Black Caps and learnt a lot, before Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder returned from injury to bump him back to domestic cricket. He said the most important thing was to keep doing the same things that had worked for him previously.
"Early doors when I came back I didn't play quite as well as I would have liked, I was probably trying a little bit too hard," he said.
"As long as I'm doing my job and helping the boys to a competitive total or restricting a side, that's what I can be happy with really."
And a couple of decent performances this weekend wouldn't hurt Devcich's chances of a Black Caps recall.
"They've basically just said go away and play good cricket. And with the T20 World Cup coming around, I'm in with a sniff there, with it being in the sub-continent and being able to bowl as well. I'm not on the back burner or anything, I'm still there or thereabouts, so I'm happy with that."
Devcich said the Knights were confident of being able to topple the Wizards, despite going down to them in both round-robin meetings.
ND failed to chase a meagre 126 at Mt Maunganui on January 2 in an 11-run loss, while the Wizards comfortably got 157 in Christchurch for a five-wicket win last Sunday.
"They've beaten us twice now so we're due to get them back.
"It's one of those formats where you can lose one day but turn up the next day and you can be twice as good.
"They've played some good cricket against us, to be honest, and they've been the better side on both days unfortunately.
"We'll take confidence that we haven't played overly well against them and we've still competed with them. But semifinals are a different ball game, it's obviously a one-off game and whoever turns up on the day gets the chocolates I suppose.
"We've got a lot of guys there who can step up and who've got experience now, so we're confident."
Devcich also wants to see his team adapt more quickly than they have been to the conditions that are presented. And he felt that the winner of tonight's clash would go into tomorrow night's decider with a decent advantage over Otago.
"They'll be watching that semifinal on TV trying to gauge what that pitch is like. But it's completely different watching to playing, and finding out first-hand what that pitch is like. I think whoever goes through on the Friday night [tonight] has got a massive advantage, just on that."
Canterbury have named the same 12 which beat the Knights last Sunday, while ND welcome back Sydney Thunder seamer Chris Tremain, who replaces Thunder team-mate Luke Feldman.