Northern Knights secure the one-day home final
A second trophy this season is now just one win away for the Northern Knights.
The Knights will play host to the final of the domestic one-day competition after beating the Canterbury Wizards in the major semifinal in Christchurch today.
The visitors overcame a worrying wobble in their chase for victory to triumph by four wickets - earning the right to host Saturday's Ford Trophy final at Bay Oval in Mt Maunganui.
A star-studded Knights side won the Twenty20 competition earlier this season, but the one-day outfit has chiefly had to fight their way to Saturday's showdown without Black Caps Kane Williamson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Corey Anderson, Anton Devcich and the injured Daniel Vettori.
Sky City Knights coach James Pamment said he was proud of how his young side held their nerve at Hagley Oval yesterday.
"It was a challenge for us, especially for the young players, but they stood up for us and we got home comfortably in the end," Pamment said.
Knights fans may not have been so comfortable - the visitors needed 63 off the last eight overs, and while they lost the wickets of Daryl Mitchell (39 off 37 balls) and Mitchell Santner (30 off 39), Scott Kuggeleijn's 16 not out from only eight deliveries ended the match with an over to go.
The Wizards hammered Northern last week to gain home advantage for Sunday's game after the visitors won the toss and chose to bat. This time the hosts won the toss and batted first, and the Knights seamers made early inroads into the talented Canterbury top order.
Kuggeleijn and Graeme Aldridge reduced the Wizards to 36-3 in the 11th over before Black Caps test opener Peter Fulton assumed the anchor role for Canterbury. He batted for the rest of the innings to finish up unbeaten on 82, after the Wizards skipper faced 112 balls in 152 minutes and struck eight fours and two sixes.
He got crucial support from experienced all-rounder Andrew Ellis as they added 96 for the sixth wicket to give the innings some substance. Ellis hit three fours and a six in his 52, compiled off 66 deliveries.
Northern's spinners proved difficult to score from, with left-armer Santner taking 1-33 from his full complement off 10 overs while Black Caps test leg-spinner Ish Sodhi had 1-35 off his 10. Kuggeleijn took some late punishment but still ended with 3-50 from his maximum allocation.
"Kuggeleijn got two wickets from very poor deliveries, but I guess that was from the pressure he built by a number of very good deliveries," Pamment said.
Knights skipper Daniel Flynn went out to replicate Fulton's effort and looked to be guiding his team towards victory before falling in the 35th over -just before the second batting powerplay.
Flynn had worked his way to 73 off 100 deliveries - featuring 10 fours and a six - before being dismissed by leg-spinner Todd Astle when caught off a hip-high full-toss.
Coming shortly after the loss of Joe Carter - who perished in the exact same manner - the Knights had two new batsmen at the crease as the run-rate required grew close to seven an over.
But an injury to Canterbury pace bowler Hamish Bennett, who was unable to complete his eighth over, gave the Knights a chance they gratefully grabbed to get home.
Canterbury will now play the Wellington Firebirds on Wednesday for a place in the final after Wellington eliminated the Auckland Aces in the minor semifinal in Auckland.