When the Volts opted to bowl on a sultry Seddon Park Saturday, opening with spinning duo Anaru Kitchen, (who was named today in the BLACKCAPS T20 squad) and Mark Craig, no doubt their first objective was to slow down Tim Seifert’s breakout season and put the dampeners on fiery Anton Devcich.
It was a brave move against two players who have little hesitation attacking square of the wicket. Devcich bopped his first six second over. Seifert slammed 13 off the next. When Devcich did the same to Jacob Duffy next over, the Knights were officially off to a power start at 42 after four overs, a 50-stand flying off 27 balls.
The ball kept flying to the rope until Duffy made a big breakthrough getting Seifert caught on 20, Devcich (42 off 21) following him next over after he, too, was caught, this time off Warren Barnes who would go on to claim 3-33.
Barnes, who dips his head in his follow-through rather like Andrew Mathieson, was channelling Voltman in a new, custom-made protective face mask while Shawn Hicks had been a busy man in the field with both the grabs, and his third catch of the innings — equalling the Volts T20 record — was soon in his mitts as well, Neil Wagner the bowler and pumped to get Dean Brownlie cheaply.
But the all-attack Knights weren’t slowing down one bit.
Pinch-hitter Brett Hampton had already boomed his way to 23 off just 11 balls, then welcomed Volts captain Rob Nicol to the crease by carting him for two sixes off the over, the first of those punching up the home team 100 off just 57 balls.
Powerful Hampton’s promotion up the order, and the faith shown in him to do what he does best — slam the ball as far as possible, kept working the pink magic for the Knights who reached 130 in 12 overs before he finally pushed his luck, caught after a whirlwind 20-ball 44, (three fours, four sixes).
Daniel Flynn has already got himself set though and now he and Daryl Mitchell (below) posed the next set of problems for the southerners.
Flynn relished tucking in to two sixes off Kitchen’s third over to bring up the 150 in 14 overs and was on course for a big one at their fortress is the Tron, the pair having just teamed up to smash consecutive sixes off Wagner and Jimmy Neesham off back-to-back balls before Flynn’s wicket on 47 ended his hopes of a fast 50, breaking a 56-stand in the process.
Even despite Neesham’s strike, 14 runs had flown off the 18th. New import Chris Jordan helped keep the Knights slaying it at the death with a six first ball before he too was caught by Shawn Hicks — now the outright Volts record-holder and just one away from the NZ domestic T20 record with one over and three wickets remaining.
The Knights denied him as Daryl Mitchell was caught by Craig and Ish Sodhi run out off the last two balls of the innings as they got up to an imposing 212 for nine, just two runs shy of the Knights’ all-time record total of 214 for nine that was set against the Aces at the Mount last week.
It set their visitors a big ask of RPO 10.65 from the outset and, after a cautious start, the Volts suffered an early double setback with the bat, Devcich getting two key wickets in just the third over, Hamish Rutherford and Jimmy Neesham both caught.
Nicol took charge for a quick recovery but became Jordan’s maiden Knights wicket at 32 for three in the fifth, the Volts urgently needing to spark again with the asking rate above 12 an over.
Hicks kept up the attack for them, slaughtering the first six of the Volts innings off Daryl Mitchell, only to lose partner Kitchen a couple of balls later (41/4) and then Craig four balls after that (42/5) with 171 runs still to be sought.
Things went from bad to worse for the Volts with Sodhi removing Derek de Boorder next over, bringing former Knight Brad Wilson to the middle with a massive job. Hicks stepped it up carving Brent Arnel for two sixes amid a torrent of 22 runs off the 11th... and even that didn’t put much of a dent in the required RPO.
Hicks became the first man in the game to reach a 50, off 25 balls, on top of their 50-stand.
But the diminishing hopes took another hit when Devcich came back into the attack next over, the pressure to score urgent now and, boom, Hicks was caught, with a daunting 110 runs still to go.
Devcich struck again two balls later for a career best 4-12 off his three overs and the Knights signed off with an impressive 106-run victory, just six runs shy of their biggest ever winning margin by runs set at the same ground two seasons back against the Firebirds.
The win pushed the Knights to the top of the leaderboard although they have now played one more game than any of their competitors and they'll be back in action on December 27 in a televised night game at Bay Oval against the Central Stags.