Form suggested cellar dwellers the Devon Hotel Central Stags would be no match for the top of the table SKYCITY Northern Knights in Nelson today, and so it proved on a sunny Saxton Oval.
Displaying composed striking and a willingness to accumulate singles against testing spin, the classy Northern batsmen put themselves in control early, despite having been sent in.
Skipper Daniel Flynn and Anton Devcich - playing his first HRV Twenty20 of the summer after his BLACKCAPS appearances, got the Knights off to a power start, 43 without loss after just four overs and the visitors already eyeing up another 200-plus tally.
Stags twirler Marty Kain (2-20 off four) succeeded in pegging that aggressive strike rate back, fellow spinner Tarun Nethula also challenging. The visitors were forced to settle for 174 for the loss of just four wickets, Devcich carrying his bat to be unbeaten on 90, just two runs shy of his highest HRV score. Jacob Oram accounted for remaining wickets to pick up 2-29.
The Knights debuted their third Australian pro for the season in the form of tall Sydney Thunder right-arm pace bowler Chris Tremain, but it was veteran Graeme Aldridge who opened and made the breakthrough. Powerhouse pro Peter Trego had just carved him for a huge six onto the roof of the pavilion commentary box, but Trego was caught on the third man boundary going for a ditto shot.
That set off a festival of wickets for the Knights, Tremain choosing the class scalp of Jamie How in the next over as his maiden HRV Twenty20 victim, with help from a fine running catch from keeper BJ Watling. Aldridge picked up his second in Carl Cachopa, Jono Boult took out the Stags' new English all-rounder Josh Cobb, and after taking two catches himself, Scott Kuggeleijn had Kieran Noema-Barnett fortuitously caught on the boundary after the Stags captain smashed it powerfully to Daryl Mitchell.
The loss of five wickets in six overs before the midway mark put too much heat on the remaining order, Kruger van Wyk (run out on 42) and Jacob Oram left needing a steep 30 runs off the final over, the Knights easing to a 26-run victory.
The Knights now look to continue their run against the Canterbury Wizards at Mount Maunganui on 2 January while the winless Stags will be hunting that first victory against the Auckland Aces in New Plymouth on 30 December.