The SKYCITY Northern Knights picked up a crunch win at Eden Park today after a strong all-round bowling effort saw them topple the Auckland Aces by 29 runs.
Sent in by Aces skipper Gareth Hopkins, the Knights set a target of 181, with the return of pro Dan Harris (25 off 14) adding punch to a top order underpinned by opener Brad Wilson - who had stuck fast for 14 overs before being snared by Bruce Martin (2-21) for 36.
The Aces missed early chances in the field, but the real damage was heralded by the entry of Scott Styris in the 13th over. Styris injected a bucket-load of excitement into the innings with BJ Watling largely a spectator in their 50-run partnership - whistled up off just 22 balls. The brazen all-rounder looked to repeat his memorable assault at the same ground last summer by raining sixes onto Sandringham Road, the torrent beginning when he clobbered Colin de Grandhomme off a head-high no-ball - the bowler replaced by Donovan Grobbelaar for the remaining five balls of the over for his offence.
Styris met Grobbelaar with a blistering cover drive for four, before hoiking him across the road into the service station - the first of another two sixes off the over. Fuller received similar treatment, going for 20 in three balls before claiming the big-hitter's wicket, caught on the favoured boundary. Styris's 48 had come from 18 balls, including four fours and five sixes.
The Knights then set about amping up the pressure on their opponents with the ball, backing up a tight attack with a sharp fielding performance. "It was a very good bowling performance on a small ground," said Knights coach James Pamment, "with the three spinners delivering nine tight overs under the run rate, including Anton Devcich's sole over at the top. Jono Boult (2-19) and Ish Sodhi (1-30) were very effective through the middle and that was backed up by good pace, with Scott Styris picking up two valuable wickets as we looked to turn the screws in the latter stages."
At 77-2 after 12 overs, the Aces had had plenty of wickets in hand with which to launch a late assault, but the pressure to hit out resulted in four quick wickets, including Sodhi's removal of anchorman Anaru Kitchen (42 off 39), that hobbled their chances at the death - despite the lively efforts of a six-slogging Grobbelaar with a quickfire 30 off 16. When he was caught by a sliding Daryl Mitchell on the boundary off a fiery Trent Boult in the penultimate over, the equation became too steep for the hosts, who finished well short on 151-9.
The two teams now decamp to Seddon Park where they clash again on 10 January.