The Knights have put their name into serious playoff contention with an emphatic, nine-wicket victory over the Auckland Aces in the McDonald’s Super Smash.
In their most impressive performance of the season, the Knights coasted to victory at Bay Oval off the back of a seriously restrictive bowling and fielding display.
The Aces could only muster 142 for six from their 20 overs after winning the toss and deciding to bat first, none of their key batsmen able to put together a rapid innings.
Scott Kuggeleijn removed both openers by bowling a good line with his searing pace, and a direct hit from mid-on by Corey Anderson sent Rob Nicol back to the pavilion without scoring.
At 57/4 after 10 overs, the Aces needed a big partnership and, while Mark Chapman and Ben Horne provided some stability, they were tied down by a quality display of spin bowling from Knights duo Jono Boult and Ish Sodhi.
The Aces uncharacteristically mustered just a solitary boundary in a seven-over span as Sodhi bowled a tight line, while Boult took advantage at the other end.
Sodhi conceded just 25 from his four overs, Boult picking up 2-21 as the Aces attempted to up the run rate.
Usually so destructive, Chapman made 30, but took 31 balls to do so; while Horne finished with the best innings of his career with 39 off 27 as the Aces started to find the rope in the final overs.
Kuggeleijn (2-28) and distinctive Australian import Trent Lawford (1-26) also bowled well, while Daryl Mitchell’s otherwise fine figures were bloated by Donovan Grobbelaar who hit two sixes off the final two balls of the innings to drag the Aces past 140.
If there is a ground on which to defend 142 in New Zealand, it is the big boundaries of Bay Oval, but an outstanding opening partnership from Dean Brownlie and BJ Watling put end to any hope of that.
After a sedate start Brownlie was the star of the show, bashing 54 from 34 balls to put the Knights in ascendancy and stop the Aces from regaining their competition lead.
Perhaps wishing to bolster their negative net run rate with an eye to playoff spots, the Knights showed impressive attacking intent as Brownlie hit four fours and three sixes in his knock. When he departed, the Knights were already at 87 through 10 overs and well on their way to victory.
Playing a more sedate, yet extremely valuable, anchoring role, Watling mixed strike-rotating accumulation with some well timed aggression to finish unbeaten on 53 from 48 deliveries.
Corey Anderson joined him to finish the innings; with a quickfire 23 not out from 13 balls seeing the Knights cruise home with 27 balls to spare for a huge nine-wicket win.
The Knights jump into fourth spot on 14 points, just two behind the Aces and Kings with three games remaining. They have a chance to move into the playoffs with a win over the Kings at the same venue on Thursday, while the Aces take on the competition-leading Stags in New Plymouth on the same day.