Brave performance | PHOTOSPORT

Brave back to back!

Would it be third time lucky for the Canterbury Kings, in their third Grand Final in as many years, against the same men who beat them last year?

The home crowd hoped so as they settled in and spread their picnic blankets under the light towers of Hagley Oval, Northern Brave bowling first after Kings captain Cole McConchie emulated the winning Canterbury Magicians and batted first - keen to bowl under the lights later on.

Northern skipper Jeet Raval had been planning on bowling anyway, setting up a delicious early contest. The last T20 of the season was going to be a big one.

Opener Chad Bowes hit Neil Wagner for four in the first over, then caned spinner Tim Pringle for two sixes off the second.

It was typical audacity from Bowes, but the Brave struck back as Scott Kuggeleijn came on for a demanding third over that quickly saw Ken McClure caught behind off his awkward bounce and length at 19/1.

Wagner found some swing as well, and delivered a brilliant fourth over that had Leo Carter in all sorts before Bowes scampered to the strike and promptly found himself on his way next, edging behind at 21/2.

The form dangerman had departed for just 17.

But there was another danger lurking for the Brave as Leo Carter kept finding the boundary, and Kings captain McConchie attacked with some crisp, instinctive six-hitting, off both spin and pace.

The pair raced to a half century stand, setting a sound launching pad at 75/2 at the halfway mark of the innings.

Katene Clarke showed his athleticism and speed as he put in a strong running dive to dismiss Carter for a run-a-ball 37, a wicket for Mitch Santner in his second over.

The Kings sent in the relatively inexperienced Mitch Hay who was caught in the deep, bringing King hitter Cam Fletcher to the middle at 106/4 in the 14th.

McConchie was meanwhile cruising on 46 not out, off not many. He would bring up his half century, but not before losing another partner with Fletcher's stay short thanks to some Santner wizardry.

Brave was putting the pressure on, but after seeing out the last four balls of Santner's over, freshly minted BLACKCAP Henry Shipley shipped a couple of Joe Walker deliveries to the fence next over to give the Kings a runs boost with 14 off the 17th.

Wagner's next went for 12, Hampton's penultimate cost 11, and the Kings were banking some much needed runs at the death.

But the last over began with an exclamation mark as Wagner (2-22) got McConchie to chop on, ending the captain's knock on a 36-ball 54.

The Kings squeaked past 150 in the 20 overs to set the defending champions a 155-chase, Santner having returned a masterly 3-16 off his four overs, his best figures at Dream11 Super Smash level.

All hinged now on the Kings' attack. Could they respond with same fire, and guile?

Katene Clarke quickly reached 28 off just 17 balls, but was given out at 51/1 to an inside edge, the third umpire making the tough call on the slightest of sounds.

The Kings needed the breakthrough with the Brave ahead early - and it was a good time for the veteran leggie Todd Astle to come on to try to turn the screws.

But the Kings just weren't sharp enough in the face of a calm and steady approach from the anchorman Jeet Raval and Tim Seifert, a contrasting but richly experienced duo who knew just what to do in an evening chase under lights in a Final.

Astle picked up a wicket when Raval was trapped on 22, an unlucky break for the Northern captain whose bat seemed to have got there first.

That brought in another experienced campaigner in Joe Carter at 91/2 - with Seifert gathering steam nicely on 40*. The keeper-batsman celebrated a half ton off 38 balls but soon after, Shipley struck at 111/3.

Everyone in the Brave top order had got a start and contributed, and the Northern experience kept coming with Santner strolling in, in the 15th over.

The Kings needed magic, but they would not perform it on the night as Carter and Santner smoothly rustled up a winning partnership of 45 off just 24 balls, defending their trophy comfortably with a seven-wicket win and two overs to spare.