All three home teams — the Stags, Aces and Knights — were winners on opening day of the 2016/17 McDonald’s Super Smash season, though it was a DLS calculation that ultimately got the Central lads the honours against the fired-up Canterbury Kings.
The Pukekura Park crowd came to see the big rematch between the last summer’s Ford Trophy finalists on the self same turf — the Stags having been winners on that occasion, too. But this time it didn’t quite all go George Worker’s way after he was unlucky to be given run out in his first trot back for the Stags this summer.
The dashing opener (36) had underpinned a platform of 85/2 in almost 11 overs before two wickets in nine balls threatened to brake the Stags just as they looked to escalate. They had fought back from the first-over loss of Ben Smith to Aussie import Ben Hilfenhaus thanks to Worker and Will Young, who built an attractive 33 off 27 as the pair took on the early steam from Hilfenhaus (whose two overs upfront were the pick of the contest), Ed Nuttall and Kyle Jamieson.
At the end of an erratic first over in purple, Jeremy Benton turned out to be the 73-stand-breaker, claiming Young (33 of 27) as his maiden T20 wicket in the 10th over, before Worker’s misfortune brought Tom Bruce and Doug Bracewell fresh together at the midpoint.
The Kings had chalked up a win against Australia’s Big Bash champions Sydney Thunder in their Friday warm-up, but they wouldn’t get the better of the power-packed Stags as Bruce (39 off just 24 balls) and BLACKCAP Bracewell (37 off 21) pedalled into their work, Bruce punching his first six, off Tim Johnston’s spin, into the Bellringer Pavilion as they racked up 17 runs off over 13.
Bracewell followed suit by caning Jamieson for twin fours and a six in the 16th, the 150 pasted on the tins off Hilfenhaus next over before Kings captain Andy Ellis brought himself back on and put himself on a hat-trick with both their wickets in the 18th — straight after Bruce had punched him for another six first ball.
The double strike didn’t do much for the Kings, though, 15 runs still skimmed off the over and the Stags’ deep order finishing strongly at the death to stretch 168/5 out to 198/6 in the final two overs.
The afternoon had started in warm, pleasant conditions, but drizzly showers lurked behind the mountain and arrived at the ground in the ninth over of the reply. By then, the Kings were 61/3, Bracewell and Ben Wheeler (2-29) in the wickets column. Bracewell had critically shut down a torrid assault from Chad Bowes who opened the chase with back-to-back boundaries off Seth Rance — who bounced back with an important seventh over that cost just five singles, at a moment when DLS calculations were starting to count.
Weather stopped the play next over at 61/3 and, after a short break, there were only eight more balls before more substantial wet stuff halted the Kings for good at 77/3, in a chase that had already been reduced to 18 overs, a revised target of 184. Ellis had blasted 10 runs off the last two balls, but it wasn’t quite enough in the interim to edge the Stags who would win by seven runs on the DLS.
Kings captain Andy Ellis went home with a haul of 3-49, while Hilfenhaus was impressive, but had had to settle for 1-24.
Round two begins 7.10pm this Saturday 10 December when the Stags will host fellow round one winners the Knights across town at New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium.