The sight of two exciting youngsters closing out a 200-plus innings for the Stags might just have been a glimpse of the future for the Central lads as they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and produced a solid performance in all departments to quell the Knights’ hot streak with a solid raid on Bay Oval.
Nelson’s Josh Clarkson and Napier’s Christian Leopard were teammates for New Zealand at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup two years ago; now they were doing it for the Stags — big young Clarkson (below) smashing his way to an unbeaten half century off just 25 balls at the death while feisty Leopard kept finding the boundary — five times — for a quick 22 not out off just seven balls, 19 peeled off the big 19th and the Stags pushing their total up to 201 for four.
For a side missing some of its key white ball stars — the likes of George Worker, Tom Bruce, Seth Rance, Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell all taken out of commission on BLACKCAPS duty, going big under the bright lights was just the tonic after heading into the match with just one win from three games.
The hot Knights meanwhile had clocked up their two highest tallies in their T20 history overt the last couple of weeks and one of them was at this ground where Tim Seifert had blasted his maiden century. But it wouldn’t be an action replay this time as the Stags backed up their aggressive scoring with a sharp bowling and fielding performance that ensured they eased to a 49-run win.
Both teams fielded well, but the Knights weren’t permitted to keep ticking over the runs the way their visitors had and as the pressure mounted, they struggled for clean contact.
Stepping up again with a key role in the Stags pace attack was Blair Tickner who put himself on a hat-trick en route to an exciting 4-24, after which the Knights still needed a near hopeless 86 runs with just over four overs remaining.
When possibly their biggest hitter Brett Hampton was dismissed next over — this time Tickner with the grab off Bevan Small, the Stags knew they had it in the bag and the convincing 49-run win was duly ticked off.
Earlier, Stags captain Will Young (above) had had no hesitation batting on a balmy evening and would go on to notch his second half century in three games after Jesse Ryder and Ben Smith had shared a solid 60-run opening stand in 7.4 overs.
Young was out next ball after his fifty, but key for the Stags was they kept their momentum going come what may.
Just as they had started well, they finished strong with the youngsters taking charge, dangerous striker Clarkson — who has fashioned a strong record against the men in pink — launching into some big hits in his 25-ball half ton while Leopard pulled off some streaky boundaries in his quick-scoring cameo.
The Knights needed to emulate the good start but weren’t able to, left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel (2-24) grabbing two big early wickets after opening the attack with Ben Wheeler and opening batsman Seifert top-scoring with a 32-ball 37.
The Knights won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge with the two teams heading to Pukekura Park for a rematch this Saturday afternoon.