Our prediction is Northern Knights to win!
After a break for a few days, the Super Smash is back with table-topping Northern Knights taking on the Central Stags at Napier’s McLean Park. These two sides met almost a month ago at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui and the Stags’ five-wicket win remains the only time the Knights have been beaten this season. On that occasion, the Stags bowlers managed to keep the powerful Knights batting line-up quiet and then chased down 157 with four balls to spare despite falling to 27-3.
The head-to-head between these two sides sees the Knights 13-10 ahead with one abandonment. At Napier, the Knights have won both matches between them. While the home team tends to have the advantage when these two meet, that has not been the case at Napier.
After beating the Knights in their opening match, the Stags then lost two in a row and saw their game against Otago Volts abandoned without a ball being bowled. Since then, they have taken three straight wins to move up to second in the table – although they are still six points behind the leaders.
Good victories over the Volts (six wickets) and Canterbury Kings (six wickets and then 18 runs) mean they are carrying outstanding form and no little confidence into this match. By scoring 225-2 against the Kings last time out, an innings in which three players scored half-centuries, they showed they have the capacity to take apart any attack. Nevertheless, they looked in trouble when defending that score at times but held on in the end.
George Worker, Will Young, Dean Foxcroft, Tom Bruce (c), Josh Clarkson, Dane Cleaver, Doug Bracewell, Ben Wheeler, Seth Rance, Ajaz Patel, Blair Tickner
Other than that defeat to the Stags, the Knights have a perfect record in the Super Smash so they will be gunning for some measure of revenge. A victory in this match would see them through to the semi-finals so there is plenty on the line for them. With two wins against the Kings and one each against Auckland Aces, Otago Volts and Wellington Firebirds, things are looking very rosy for the Knights at the moment.
Dean Brownlie, Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santner are leading the way with the bat and their experience is a vital component for the Knights. Talking of experience, Kyle Abbott’s impact has been enormous and they have shown they aren’t missing Anton Devcich, now on BBL duty, too much either.
Like the Stags, they beat the Kings in their last match, winning by six runs in a rain-shortened affair. Corey Anderson played a starring role as they held on to make it six wins out of seven.
Tim Seifert (wk), Nicholas Kelly, Dean Brownlie (c), Daryl Mitchell, Corey Anderson, Brett Hampton, Mitchell Santner, Daniel Flynn, Scott Kuggeleijn, Kyle Abbott, Ish Sodhi
The weather is set to be warm and dry in the early part of the week before there is a strong possibility of rain arriving on matchday from any time early in the morning. That could interrupt proceedings or at the very least slow the pitch down a little.
Napier’s McLean Park is the world’s easternmost international venue and has hosted several international matches. At domestic level, it has now hosted 13 Twenty20 matches and it tends to be on the lower scoring side with an average score in all innings of 150. This season, just the one game has been played here – the first since December 2016 – and it saw the Stags successfully beat Otago Volts by 54 runs despite being asked to bat first.
There is no obvious advantage to batting first or second in Napier, but with rain around, the side winning the toss may prefer to chase as they will then know exactly what target they are aiming for if the game is shortened by rain. The Stags have won three tosses, fielding twice and batting once. The Knights have done the complete opposite – fielding once and batting twice.
The Stags need to prove that their victory over the Knights earlier in the competition was not a fluke. Now chasing a fourth straight win, they clearly have the ability to do the damage, but with Anderson and Abbott now in the Knights’ side, the visitors are now an even stronger proposition to deal with. If they can get early wickets – assuming they win the toss and try to repeat what they did in Mount Maunganui – they have a chance, but realistically the reigning champions should be too good for them.
We are backing the Northern Knights for the win!
Featured bookmaker: Betrally India