The Burger King Super Smash Grand Final is just days away with tons of excitement building in the Knights’ Hamilton hub for the showcase domestic cricket event of the year.
The men in pink last hosted the Grand Final in early 2014 — the year they finally broke through to claim New Zealand’s premier T20 trophy.
Plenty of survivors from that epic night are still in the mix with BLACKCAPS leggie Ish Sodhi, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Anton Devcich and BJ Watling all hungry for another title.
That season their opponent was the Otago Volts, the Knights winning a thriller as they chased down 144 under lights at Seddon Park with just six balls remaining.
This time they will face the tough-to-beat Central Stags and Auckland Aces coach Mark O’Donnell believes weather conditions may also throw a curve ball as the Waikato takes a drenching today.
The forecast for Saturday itself is promising, but O’Donnell says we may see a similar kind of deck to the Burger King Super Smash Elimination Final where players need to respect the slower conditions while still staying situationally aware.
“With the rain around, I think our Aces side rushed the DLS chase in the Elimination Final in the understanding we didn’t think we would get the full 20 overs in,” O’Donnell reflects.
“But Dane Cleaver [who hit a half century for the Stags in the crunch match in Auckland] showed that if you got in, and got the pace of it, you can still score reasonably fluently in those conditions. There is some average weather around, but you just hope that for a big match like this you just get as close to the full 20 overs as you can.”
Cleaver’s 54 was another career best for the keeper-batsman this season while Stags batsmen Will Young (number one with 326 runs from 10 games), Jesse Ryder and BLACKCAP Tom Bruce are all in the top 10 run-getters.
For the Knights, roll Tim Seifert, Anton Devcich and Daryl Mitchell into that hit list, with Seifert’s 16 bombs to date putting him in the top two smashers for the season.
“You’ve got several form guys in this competition like Young, Seifert and Devcich who are all guys who can win a game, so it’s going to be the team that holds its composure on the day,” says O’Donnell.
“The Central Stags deserve to be there in the Grand Final. I would like to see them do well there, but I have a funny feeling that on a used surface, in Hamilton, that will favour three or four pace-off-the-ball options that the Knights have.
“I like the balance of the Knights’ attack a little bit more than that of the Stags, but the Stags have the more destructive batters.”
The sides will head into the showdown with a 1-1 record this summer, the Stags having defeated the Knights at Bay Oval before the Knights repaid the favour by beating the Stags at their home ground of Pukekura Park in the regular season.
Squads for the 2018 Burger King Super Smash Grand Final will be announced tomorrow.