Three new faces came into the mix for this Dunedin showdown with Sean Davey on Knights debut (in for the injured Brent Arnel) and both 24-year-old Matt Bacon, who was briefly a Firebirds rep in red ball in his former life, and 17-year-old North Otago youngster Llew Johnson suiting up for the Otago Volts for the first time.
Star bowler Neil Wagner was meanwhile on the Volts’ drinks trolley, and Hamish Rutherford and Mark Craig likewise faces missing from their regular line-up as the under pressure hosts headed in trying for their first win of the comp, a scarcely believable seven games in. The local paper even went to the trouble of calculating that it had been, to be exact, 375 days since the Volts had last won a T20 match!
Yet at 44 for one on a slowish deck, after five overs at least the remodelled southerners were tracking well against the impressive Knights.
Captain Rob Nicol (above) had opted to bat, Knights import Chris Jordan having done well to stop a rampaging Neil Broom on 18 but Nicol himself with 25 off 17 quickly tucking into his work at the top, carting back-to-back sixes off Brett Randell’s first over to give his side early momentum.
However, just as he and Shawn Hicks were looking good for the second wicket, Nicol’s experience was lost as he was utterly deceived by Daryl Mitchell’s slow off-cutter.
Cue Johnson walking out to the middle on debut, combining with 22-year-old power-hitter Hicks for a couple of overs before Randell brought about the end to Johnson’s brief debut, caught after a run-a-ball seven.
Hicks (above) exacted revenge on his mate’s behalf by slamming the Knights paceman for a huge six into the bank a couple of balls later, 11 flying off the over. Crucially for the visitors, a brilliant stumping from Tim Seifert then removed the dangerous striker just another couple of balls after that, Joe Walker chalking one up in the wickets column.
The quick wickets forced Derek de Boorder and Josh Finnie (below) to try to settle the dust for a period to get the Volts’ hundred on the board before Finnie, another young fella himself, started to cut loose.
The pair ultimately garnered a 52-run stand, Finnie’s valuable cameo gathering pace after the loss of de Boorder and reaching 46 off just 28 balls before he was caught in the 18th over.
Brad Wilson looked to take over the finishing after that — only to sky the ball, Seifert sprinting across from behind the stumps to glove an impressive catch.
Wilson had got the hosts to their 150 and Michael Rippon and Jacob Duffy managed to keep the scoreboard ticking against Jordan’s final over to get up to 156 — before Jordan yorked Duffy on the last ball of the innings.
That all meant the Knights needed a 7.85 RPO to keep the pink train humming, and the dangerous Seifert and Anton Devcich quickly made that look easily within their reach.
The way Seifert had fielded, you had the gut feeling he just wasn’t going to miss out with the bat either, and the country's top run-scorer of the season smashed Rippon into the carpark in just the second over.
Bacon missed a big maiden wicket when Seifert was awkwardly dropped by Duffy on 21, the Knights level-pegging with the Volts’ earlier efforts at 44 for no loss at the end of five overs.
Not to be outdone, Anton Devcich (above) then kicked into gear and carved a string of fours, propelling him to a strike rate of 200 and his 11th T20 50 off just 28 balls, surviving a brilliant dive from young Johnson who was trying to stop the ball from flying across the rope as he reached the milestone.
Midway through the chase, the pink machine was sitting pretty at 101 without loss, the writing already on the wall. Seifert's half century came up off just 35 balls.
The score and opening stand blew up to 144 with the Knights on course to become the first team in Burger King Super Smash history to win a match by 10 wickets — before Duffy finally claimed Seifert's wicket
With just 13 runs left for victory, the breakthrough had come far too late. Brett Hampton smashed a six almost immediately, then Devcich slammed one final bomb for a nine-wicket victory and a near career best unbeaten 88 off just 51 balls. The win, with four overs to spare, sweeps the Knights back to the top of the table.
The Otago Volts will go again at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park on 6 January, still hoping to finally break their duck.