Northern Districts will face the defending champion and Otago Volts in the final of the domestic Twenty20 competition in Hamilton tonight.
The Knights won an absolutely thrilling preliminary final against the Canterbury Wizards by three runs at Seddon Park last night.
The match was highlighted by two fabulous innings by the respective No 4s in the order, as firstly Kane Williamson hit a brilliant 79 off 55 balls, before Wizards captain Peter Fulton smoked 88 not out off 49 balls. They were both players' highest scores in Twenty20.
Then Knights seamer Scott Kuggeleijn handled the big-time pressure of the last over with aplomb as he kept the Wizards from getting the 15 required.
Daniel Flynn won the toss and chose to bat, with Fulton admitting he would have done the same.
The pitch was on the slow side, not the easiest to hit through the line on, but it was the very gusty westerlies which both teams had to adjust to most, before the wind suddenly died off halfway through the first innings.
The Knights posted 181-4, thanks to Williamson's heroics.
ND got off to a flying start, with Anton Devcich taking 10 off the first over, but next over he was squared up by Matt Henry and well caught by Rob Nicol at first slip.
Flynn (26 off 12 balls) kept the run rate going, with a four and three sixes, but Andrew Ellis had him out with his first delivery as Flynn went aerially into the wind for George Worker to take a good catch in the deep.
Brad Wilson made a brisk 22 off 17 before being runout, and then Williamson took control.
The classy right-hander hit seven fours and a six and showed all his batting nous, at the same time giving a gentle reminder that he's capable in the shortest format, having been left out of the Black Caps T20 squad for the series against the West Indies.
Having played out several dots, Williamson remained calm and worked his way in with nudges to gaps, picking up the rate with a few heaves to leg.
The 23-year-old then got creative, moving around the crease, sweeping Ellis for two successive boundaries then bringing up his half century by dancing down to Ronnie Hira and finding the long-off boundary.
Alongside him Scott Styris offered a handy 29 off 23, given a life in the 14th over when Tom Latham bungled a stumping off Rob Nicol, who was the pick of the bowlers, going for just 26 off his four.
Williamson continued on to give the Knights a fine finish, with his four down to third man off a Logan van Beek yorker in the final over an amazing piece of skill.
The man of the moment was then handed the ball to open the attack with fellow spinner Devcich. After two quiet overs, Flynn introduced Australian import Chris Tremain and things heated up.
The big Aussie quick had George Worker skying a pull shot for keeper BJ Watling to take, before next ball getting rid of Nicol with a rapid full length delivery which was inside edged onto the stumps.
When Devcich had Dean Brownlie caught at long on by Williamson in the seventh over, the Wizards were 37-3 and staring down the barrel.
To counter the climbing run rate Canterbury promoted Hira in to clear the fence, and he took to that task big time, as he hit Devcich for a couple of huge blows in succession, with 18 coming off the 11th over.
That was followed up next over when Fulton and Hira hit a six apiece down the ground off Scott Styris' first over, which cost 16, as Hira's previous best of 28 was surpassed with ease.
Seamer Scott Kuggeleijn was introduced next over but the carnage continued, with 22 taken from it, as Fulton smoked the ball up the embankment.
Flynn brought off-spinner Jono Boult back for his second over and second ball he had Hira dismissed, stumped by Watling for 43 off 21 (two fours and four sixes).
It was an eventful over, as Devcich was caught trying to stop a boundary by pulling the rope back for Daryl Mitchell, then next ball Latham top edged to short fine leg, where Ish Sodhi took the catch after a couple of juggles.
The leg-spinner then immediately brought the game back with an over that cost just one run, and Williamson followed up by having Brendon Diamanti caught at long off by Wilson.
Fulton was running out of partners but kept his side in it, slog-sweeping Sodhi for six and then clearing the fence straight next ball.
Instead of bowling Tremain's full complement, Flynn turned to Williamson for the 18th and Fulton launched him out of the park straight away, before nudging twos.
It left the Wizards needing 20 off the last two overs with four wickets in hand.
Enter Tremain, who produced a fantastic over of death bowling, as Canterbury could only pick up five singles before Ellis was caught behind off the last ball.
That left 15 needed off the last over, with Flynn making the big call of giving the ball to Kuggeleijn.
Fulton only managed a leg bye before a bye was then scampered, then he couldn't connect with the next, as the crowd erupted each time.
However he sent the fourth ball over long off for six, then hit through mid wicket for two.
With four needed off the last ball for a super over Fulton could only hit to long-on for a single as he threw his bat down in disappointment with the crowd on their feet for Kuggeleijn.
Scoreboard from domestic Twenty20 preliminary final between Northern Knights and Canterbury Wizards at Seddon Park, Hamilton:
A Devcich c R Nicol b M Henry 10
D Flynn c G Worker b A Ellis 26
B Wilson run out (B Diamanti/R Nicol) 22
K Williamson not out 79
S Styris c R Nicol b R Hira 29
D Mitchell not out 8
Extras (lb 1, wd 6, nb 0) 7
Total (for 4 wickets, 20.0 overs) 181
Fall: 1-12 (A Devcich, 1.3), 2-43 (D Flynn, 4.1), 3-84 (B Wilson, 9.3), 4-157 (S Styris, 17.6)
Bowling: H Bennett 4-0-36-0 (1w, M Henry 3-0-27-1 (1w, A Ellis 4-0-40-1 (2w, R Hira 4-0-40-1, R Nicol 4-0-26-0 (1w, L van Beek 1-0-11-0
G Worker c BJ Watling b C Tremain 8
R Nicol b C Tremain 4
D Brownlie c K Williamson b A Devcich 16
PG Fulton not out 88
R Hira st BJ Watling b J Boult 43
T Latham c I Sodhi b J Boult 5
B Diamanti c B Wilson b K Williamson 0
A Ellis c BJ Watling b C Tremain 5
MJ Henry not out 0
Extras (b 7, lb 2, nb 0) 9
Total (for 7 wickets, 20.0 overs) 178
Fall: 1-12 (G Worker, 2.4), 2-12 (R Nicol, 2.5), 3-37 (D Brownlie, 6.5), 4-121 (R Hira, 13.2), 5-127 (T Latham, 13.6), 6-129 (B Diamanti, 15.3), 7-167 (A Ellis, 18.6)
Bowling: A Devcich 4-0-33-1, K Williamson 4-0-25-1, C Tremain 3-0-19-3, J Boult 3-0-25-2, I Sodhi 3-0-21-0, S Styris 1-0-15-0, S Kuggeleijn 2-0-31-0
- Waikato Times
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