The SKYCITY Northern Knights have made it four wins from five games and extended their lead at the top of the HRV Cup table this evening after beating the Auckland Aces at Eden Park.
Whilst drizzly weather caused frustration with several prolonged stoppages, and a progressive reduction in overs under the Duckworth/Lewis system, the Aces' chief source of frustration was a show of superb clean striking from Knights captain Scott Styris, who grabbed hold of the game with a ballistic, unbeaten 68 off just 26 balls after the Aces had sent the Knights into bat on a tame pitch.
Styris was particularly brutal on Andre Adams, slamming him for three consecutive sixes in the 10th over - the third of which flew clear over the West Stand and into the number one ground for a total of 23 runs off the over.
Striding to the crease in the fifth over when the Knights were 29/2, in total Styris delivered eight sixes and two fours in his best performance yet with the bat this season - destroying what had been a useful start from the home side.
Despite slippery conditions for the bowlers, debutant opening bowler Matt Quinn had been impressive on debut and the Aces had no doubt been delighted to remove the Knights' prolific English import Steven Croft for just 3. Croft was caught behind off Kyle Mills, who had earlier removed Brad Wilson cheaply in identical fashion.
Returning to the Knights after a leave of absence in England during a family illness, James Foster chipped in with a six over square off the hapless Adams in the eighth over, before being dropped by Lou Vincent very next ball. It proved an eventful over, with Adams claiming Foster's wicket with the following delivery when Foster nicked one through to the keeper - ushering in James Marshall, who played a support role to the aggressive Styris for the remainder of the innings and helped plunder another 20 runs from Adams' final over.
Drizzle had already seen the Knights' innings reduced to 12 overs, but the batting blitz saw them waste no time and take their score to 142/4. Further drizzle at the change of innings saw the Aces' target reduced to 73 off six overs, but the Aces never got close to achieving the required run-rate that exceeded 12 per over from the start.
Knights debutant Anurag Verma went for just a five runs off his first over and by the time Bradley Scott stepped up to the bowling crease to deliver the death blows, the Aces, three down, needed 28 off the last six balls. But Scott struck with the first and third balls of his over, then Donovan Grobbelaar was run out without facing a ball as the Knights completed a 23-run Duckworth/Lewis victory over the defending champions.
The win sees the SKYCITY Northern Knights bounce back from their loss to the Volts in the last round and maintain their lead over the Wellington Firebirds, with their next match against the Central Stags on Saturday in New Plymouth.
For the Aces it was their first loss of the season, with their next match against the second-placed Wellington Firebirds on Friday night - the Firebirds fresh from a robust win over the Central Stags in Wellington today.