The Auckland Aces held their nerve while the Northern Knights didn’t as the home side sealed a tight HRV Cup Twenty20 win in Auckland today.
The Aces won with three wickets and an over to spare, reaching 156 for seven after taking 13 runs off the penultimate over from international Tim Southee at Colin Maiden Park.
The tall seamer made life easier than necessary for the Aces as he delivered three wides in what proved to be the final over before left-hander Colin Munro swatted him wide of mid on for four and then sealed the result with a two to the same region of the field.
The Aces had been cruising at 131 for four in the 16th over on the back of a stand of 52 in 5.5 overs between Colin de Grandhomme and Gareth Hopkins.
But things became interesting when they departed within the space of two balls, de Grandhomme for 35 off 25 balls and Hopkins for 17 off 17.
The Aces still had the required hitting power, though, despite losing allrounder Andre Adams, who retired hurt for one when a short ball from Southee pierced the grill on his helmet and struck him above the right eye.
Anton Devcich did his best for the Knights, his left-arm spin rewarding him with figures of two for 21 off four overs to complement his earlier 19 off 14 balls when promoted to bat at No 3 in the order.
The Knights were always on the back foot after mustering just 155 for five from their 20 overs on a pitch promising more.
They made a bright and sparky start to be 67 for one in the ninth over but their progress stalled at the dismissal of opener Brad Wilson, who was bowled for 45 off 27 balls by Adams when the ball deflected off his pads and on to the stumps.
Thereafter there were a series of modest, albeit handy contributions but there was nothing of note aside from an unbeaten 31 of 22 balls from skipper Scott Styris, who showed the benefits of his considerable experience.
The former international was largely responsible for taking 15 off the penultimate over from tall left-arm seamer Michael Bates but Pakistani import Azhar Mahmood conceded just nine off the final as the Aces reached the innings break firmly in the ascendancy.
The Aces attack impressed as a unit, with Adams taking one for 24 off his four overs, while Kyle Mills collected one for 27 off four, left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira one for 28 off four and Bates two for 41 off four.