SKYCITY Northern Knights 157-8 (Travis Birt 44, Scott Kuggeleijn 25, Dane Hutchison 36-4, Luke Fletcher 19-3) beat Wellington Firebirds 131-9 (Michael Pollard 35, Brad Hodge 33, Anton Devcich 19-4) by 26 runs.
The 2014 Georgie Pie Super Smash got underway on a stunning, blue-sky Hamilton day to deliver hometown fans just what they wanted — a SKYCITY Northern Knights victory.
For the Wellington Firebirds, however, it was a frustrating beginning to their campaign. Not only had they lost the match after winning the toss and sending the defending champs in, but a tantalising run chase of 158 had been shoved out of reach by a blinding performance from the Knights as a unit in the field.
Did we mention their Australian pro last season — Travis Birt — had been snared by their opponents for the new season, and promptly topped their scoring with a vital hand of 44?
The Knights needed their blinder in the field, of course, to defend 157-8, having struggled to gather momentum through the meat of their innings. Tall Firebirds import Luke Fletcher’s four overs of awkward pace had delivered an impressive 3-19. Dane Hutchinson was almost as testing, although his death battle with Daniel Vettori and Ben Laughlin saw his figures inflate to 4-36.
The Knights’ late charge saw the two tailenders rediscover their six-hitting ability, and Vettori also impressed with the ball as the Knights spinners took a firm hold of the Firebirds’ innings.
Jono Boult was equally tough to get away, while Anton Devcich came into his own in the second half, the star wicket-taker with 4-19 off three.
The well-rounded pace and spin attack was backed up by electric fielding, particularly a screaming, close-in catch from captain Daniel Flynn to remove Stephen Murdoch cheaply, then a well-read take from Graeme Aldridge that looped off a Boult delivery to remove key man James Franklin for just 17.
The disciplined show was enough to permit a 26-run win, more than comfortable in the circumstances.