Our prediction is Northern Knights to win!
Wellington Firebirds host Northern Knights in a battle between two sides enjoying good seasons so far. The two sides met in the opening match of the tournament in Hamilton, where the Knights won by 45 runs after Dean Brownlie fell one short of a century.
The Knights lead the head-to-head in this fixture with 14 wins to 11 but at the Basin Reserve, where this one will be played, they have had an even bigger advantage with a 7-3 record.
As reigning champions they will want to put another one over the Firebirds – whose title they took last season - and take a step closer to making the play-offs. This venue is producing plenty of runs this season and with both of these teams packed full of talent, it could be an exciting one to watch.
The Firebirds have won two of their matches this season, lost two and suffered a washout when they travelled to Auckland Aces. Having started with that defeat against the Knights it left them searching for points and they were to be disappointed again when they played Otago Volts. They missed out by just one run but finally got on the board when they beat Central Stags by eight wickets.
In their last match, they thrashed Canterbury Kings by 65 runs to push themselves back into the play-off picture with Bracewell once again in form. He will be a key man again and if he can keep his rich run of form going, the Firebirds will be hard to stop.
As they are on a winning run, and with New Zealand internationals not yet set to return to action, they can be expected to stick with the team that won last time out.
Devon Conway, Michael Bracewell, Adam Hose, Malcolm Nofal, Tom Blundell (wk), Michael Pollard, Logan Van Beek, Ollie Newton, Jeetan Patel, Ben Sears, Hamish Bennett (c).
So far, pretty good for the Northern Knights, who have won four and lost just one in the tournament to date. They opened the tournament with that win over the Firebirds, then suffered defeat to the Central Stags by five wickets. Since then, they have been on great form, despatching Otago Volts by five wickets, Auckland Aces by two runs and most recently Canterbury Kings by two wickets.
Their batsmen are sharing the runs around, with Brownlie, Brett Hampton, Daryl Mitchell and Tim Seifert all top scoring at least once this season. And in Scott Kuggelijn they have one of the tournament’s leading wicket-takers.
However, they will soon have to make changes to their side when Anton Devcich and Chris Jordan depart for the Big Bash League, and they will hope that does not upset their rhythm too much. They have plenty of experience to come into the side with Peter Bocock a possibility to open the batting. Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner provide excellent all-round options to cover the loss of Jordan.
Tim Seifert (wk), Peter Bocock, Daryl Mitchell, Brett Hampton, Dean Brownlie (c), Corey Anderson, Mitchell Santner, Daniel Flynn, All-rounder, Scott Kuggelijn, Neil Wagner, Tarun Nethula.
Rain in the early part of the week in Wellington should clear through Friday and Saturday although clouds should linger. The pitch might not quicken up too much and cloud cover could offer some support for swing bowlers. It has been run-friendly so far in the tournament so batsmen might face a bit more of a struggle than they have done.
Despite being one of New Zealand’s most iconic international venues, the Basin Reserve has only hosted 13 domestic T20 matches – the Westpac Stadium being the Firebirds’ early home. There is an even split between sides winning batting first or second at the venue with one tie and the average score batting first is 150. So far this season, however, the runs have flowed with match aggregates well over 300 in the two games here so far.
Teams have generally been choosing to field first after winning the toss. The Firebirds did so when these two sides met last time even though it didn’t work to their advantage. The Knights have won the toss twice, choosing to bat against the Aces and then bowl against the Canterbury Kings – winning both matches. The Firebirds clearly prefer to field first if given the choice and have had success doing so here in the past.
The Knights are on a superb winning run and the great news for them is that several of their players are contributing and they are not overly reliant on one or two players. The Firebirds, meanwhile, could struggle if Bracewell does not get runs, and the impending departures of Devcich and Jordan are big blows – even if they do have enough squad depth to cope. However, the Basin Reserve has been a happy hunting ground for the Knights and we expect them to maintain their winning run in this one.
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