Something new for domestic cricket in New Zealand happens in Hamilton this weekend, with the first pre-determined venue finals weekend - the Canterbury Wizards
will take on the SKYCITY Northern Knights
on Friday night at 7pm for the right to play the Otago Volts
who await them in the final on Saturday night.
This all takes place at Seddon Park in Hamilton, a venue that was set at the start of the season, regardless of whether home team the Knights made the play-offs or not.
So why do defending champions the Otago Volts have to travel almost the length of the country to defend their title, to some of their fans displeasure?
The decision to trial the finals weekend format is one the Major Associations have come to, and has been ratified by New Zealand Cricket. It's no secret commercial realities have come into play, with night matches being more appealing to broadcasters than day. It concentrates all the action in one place to create a new event, and avoids having the action travelling around the country in the final week.
"From a playing perspective it's quite exciting to play in the weekend" says Otago Volts captain Derek de Boorder. "It's worked well by all accounts in county cricket, and hopefully we get a reasonable crowd and it works well for TV viewers too."
"It's hard to think of many sports that wouldn’t take an opportunity to stage their national finals on a Friday / Saturday night," said NZC GM Domestic Cricket David Cooper. "This is something new and innovative we're trying to help grow the entire domestic game - we're keen to see how it goes here."
Once the decision to trial the finals weekend format had been made, the two matches had to go to a venue with suitable lights (the temporary lights used this summer are cost prohibitive for a one-off finals weekend), and a venue that was actually available in the midst of a busy summer of cricket and other sport - Seddon Park was the only one that ticked all the boxes.
So, all eyes will be on Hamilton this weekend, with the three teams battling to take the HRV Twenty20 title and qualify for Champions League 2014.