A second straight home final in cricket’s Burger King Super Smash beckons for the Northern Knights if they can get past the Otago Volts at the Bay Oval tonight.
The defending champions, who took the title in an epic final victory over the Central Stags at Hamilton’s Seddon Park in last year’s Twenty/20 romp, are top of the table and in the box seat to nail down hosting rights.
They can only be pipped for first place, and the right to stage the final, if they lose heavily tomorrow and the second-placed Auckland Aces smash the Stags.
That would leave the Knights and Aces equal on points but the Northern side trailing on net run rate if the margins of victory are wide enough. The Knights would then be hosting the elimination semifinal on Friday night.
It’s an unlikely combination of circumstances but not one the Knights will want to take a risk on, so will be up for a big effort against the Volts.
Knights skipper Dean Brownlie training at Bay Oval
Knights captain, Tauranga local Dean Brownlie, is excited at the prospect of playing at the Bay Oval one last time for the season.
“It’s great that we get the chance to secure a home Grand Final in front of our crowd at Bay Oval,” he says.
“They’ve had a lot of cricket over the summer - hopefully they turn up one last time and help us try to reach the Grand Final.”
He’s well aware the Knights still have a job to do in tonight’s match and a final berth is far from guaranteed.
“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves though. Thoughts are on nullifying the threat of Otago.
“They’ve played some good cricket but maybe haven’t had that slice of luck you sometimes need to get the results, so we know we’ll have to be at the top of our game to try take the element of luck out of the equation.”
The Knights missed the opportunity to lock in top spot and final hosting rights when they took a six wicket loss to Auckland last Saturday, just their second defeat of the competition.
A solid all-round batting effort, including 36 and 33 respectively from Bay of Plenty’s Corey Anderson and Brownlie, took them through to an impressive 196 at Eden Park’s Outer Oval, but lead by a commanding 54 off 30 balls from returning international Colin Munro the home side reached the target in the final over.
The Knights go into tonight’s match missing many of their Blackcaps stars, who made up eight of the 11 defeated by India in last night’s T20 international, but that opens up an opportunity for Tauranga’s Joe Carter to return to the pink uniform, alongside local teammates Daniel Flynn, Brett Hampton, Anderson, Brownlie and Neil Wagner.
Blackcap BJ Watling will also suit up for the Knights in the match which begins at 7:10.
Northern Knights’ Burger King Super Smash squad to meet the Otago Volts at The Bay Oval tonight:
Dean Brownlie (c)