The squads have been finalised for the 2018 Burger King Super Smash Grand Final!
For the Knights, it’s an unchanged crew since their win last weekend against the Canterbury Kings and they capped a solid week of prep with a final net session at a warm (26 degrees celsius) and humid Seddon Park this morning.
The Central Stags meanwhile have brought an expanded squad of 14 to Hamilton: the 13 that brushed aside the Auckland Aces in the Elimination Final with the exciting addition of BLACKCAPS quick Adam Milne.
Milne has been a handful at Seddon Park previously in domestic Twenty20s and Stags coach Heinrich Malan says we shouldn’t discount the rest of his game either.
“He’s obviously a world class player, not just bowling rapidly but a good fielder, can hit a long ball at the back end, so yeah, a nice addition to our squad.”
The two Finalists have a 1-1 record from their clashes in this season’s round robin, both teams claiming an away win against the other, but losing at home. Does that mean history bodes well for the Stags, then?
“It’s Finals — anything could happen!” Malan chirps, no doubt ever mindful that the Stags were top qualifiers last season before stumbling at the finish line.
“The Knights have played nicely this whole campaign. The last couple of weeks have been exciting for us too and we’re approaching the Grand Final with momentum which hopefully puts us in a good position. It’s all set up to be a good game.”
With a significant nucleus of this Central Stags group all in the action in last summer’s Grand Final, will that big match experience help with the inevitable pressure, nerves and arousal levels tomorrow?
“I said at the end of last season that [even though they lost] the boys would take a lot out of that,” says Malan. “We played some good cricket. This season we’ve worked hard, and we’ve got a bit of momentum having played on Wednesday. Last year, sitting around for a week waiting for that Grand Final, a week felt like a month!”
Malan’s opposite number is Knights coach Gareth Hopkins, the former Aces captain who represented the BLACKCAPS at the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010 and who finds himself in the box seat in his maiden season in charge of the pink T20 side.
“Our guys had a couple of days off and then back into it,” Hopkins says. “They’re ready. It was raining yesterday but today it’s very humid, very hot but with no rain it was perfect for an outdoor net this morning.”
Hopkins is backing his squad to pick up where they left off last Sunday.
“Pretty much everyone has stood up for us in this campaign, they’re all in good nick and who to leave out from a squad like this is a good problem to have. Every single one of them has contributed at some stage to a win.”
As for the coach himself — who made his domestic debut for this team as a player; he’s keen not to hog all the credit for the Knights’ position this season. “I’ve been quite fortunate, [ND Head Coach] James Pamment has done all the hard work from the winter into preseason and then they’ve come to me in a really good space. This is a quality group of players, not just in skill set but in attitude.”
And playing at home — is that an advantage like the pundits say?
“It’s always nice to play at home and the Hamilton public have been right behind us with their support. Hopefully they will enjoy tomorrow!”
Gates open at 3pm with the Burger King Super Smash Grand Final LIVE on SKY Sport and Radio Sport from 4pm.
Dean Brownlie (c)
Tim Seifert (w)
Chris Jordan (overseas player)
Will Young (c)
Dane Cleaver (w)