The Canterbury Wizards pulled a rabbit out of the hat last night, a superb bowling display producing their first domestic Twenty20 competition win in nearly a year as they conquered the Northern Knights by 11 runs.
The Wizards hadn't triumphed in a T20 encounter since January last year, when they also beat the Knights, and after two losses and three abandoned games this season, they finally got a win to maintain realistic hope of making the finals.
What seemed like a limp batting display - they posted 125-7 - quickly became a competitive total on a large Bay Oval field, with the Wizards bowlers putting a spell on the Knights batsmen, restricting them to a 114-7.
After winning the toss, Wizards captain Peter Fulton chose to bat, a decision which immediately was put into question when Rob Nicol was dismissed first ball, going forward to a ball from Anton Devcich which spun away from the bat and struck the top of off stump.
Nicol's third first-ball duck of the season across all formats was compounded by the further loss of Dean Brownlie, who also was deceived by the bounce generated by Devcich, pushing a quicker one straight back to the bowler to see the Wizards two down without an over completed.
With the Knights rotating their bowling attack early, they snared more success after a mini-resurrection from Fulton and George Worker, with the latter being yorked on 14 by Scott Styris after trying to get down the wicket and clip it to the legside.
Mixing the sublime and the streaky, Fulton fell an over later for 21, caught and bowled by Ish Sodhi after being caught in no-man's land attempting to attack the BlackCap legspinner; Sodhi taking a low diving grab to reduce the Wizards to 41-4 after eight overs.
After surviving a controversial bump ball decision on one, Brendon Diamanti joined Tom Latham to re-establish the innings, with the pair trying to build their total through run-a-ball accumulation, while struggling to penetrate the long boundaries, going more than six overs without reaching the rope.
It took the Wizards until the 16th over to reach 100 as the Knights' slower bowlers stifled the Wizards with immaculate line and length, with Latham (44) and Diamanti (37) fighting admirably in a tough situation to put on an extremely valuable 79 off 68 balls, before perishing on back-to-back balls to catches in the deep off Jono Boult as they tried to up the ante and post a defendable total.
The Wizards could only find the boundary rope nine times, their equal lowest total in the past five years of the domestic T20 competition as the Knights spinners shone, with Sodhi taking 1-14 from three overs, while Boult snared 2-23 from his four and Devcich 2-1 from his solitary over.
It didn't matter as tight bowling from the Wizards made their total a competitive one, with the Knights losing consistent wickets as the run rate continued to tick up during the middle overs.
Tight bowling from pacemen Hamish Bennett (2-18 from four) and Matt Henry was complemented by the economical spin of Ronnie Hira and Nicol to leave the Knights needing 49 from five overs, an equation they couldn't solve against the bowling of Andrew Ellis, eventually falling short as two excellent catches from Hira, including one right on the boundary rope, left the Knights unable to find the required runs in the final overs.
The win leaves the Wizards still with an outside sniff of the finals, sitting on 10 points through six games, six behind the leading trio of the Otago Volts, Knights, and Wellington Firebirds.
Canterbury host Auckland at Hagley Park on Sunday from 2pm.
AT A GLANCE
In Mt Maunganui: Canterbury 125-7 in 20 overs (T Latham 44, B Diamanti 37; A Devcich 2-1, J Boult 2-23) beat Northern Districts 114-7 in 20 overs (B Wilson 43; A Ellis 3-23, H Bennett 2-28) by 11 runs
- Waikato Times
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