Kane Williamson showed his Twenty20 capabilities and led Northern Districts to HRV Cup final with a nail-biting win over Canterbury last night.
The Black Caps batsman, unneeded at international level in the shortest form of the game, hit his highest T20 score to help his side seize the initiative in the elimination final at Seddon Park.
With Williamson contributing 79, the hosts' total of 181-4 proved too tough an ask and Canterbury fell three runs shorts, leaving Northern Districts to face Otago in tonight's (Sat) final in Hamilton.
Williamson's efforts almost were in vain after Peter Fulton did his utmost to pull of an unlikely chase, hitting a superb 88 from 49 deliveries to leave the match poised on the final ball. Having hit seven sixes, Fulton needed an eighth to win or a boundary to tie, but Scott Kuggeleijn restricted him to a single.
Fulton's knock would have been a match-winner were it not for Williamson.
A fixture for his country in tests and one-dayers, his steady rather than spectacular approach had him the odd man out during the recent T20 series against the West Indies.
But the 23-year-old showed he can make an impact without possessing the same power bat as some of his peers, anchoring Northern Districts' innings with a perfectly-timed 55-ball knock.
He may have hit only seven boundaries and one six after coming it at No 4, but Williamson showed a knack for finding the gap and an ability to create a shot when the bowling appeared to prevent such strokeplay.
After ND elected to bat, Williamson enjoyed handy partnerships with Brad Wilson (22) and Scott Styris (29), with the latter being caught on the boundary off Ronnie Hira right when he seemed set to launch.
His dismissal brought to a close a 73-run stand with Williamson and left the junior partner to push his side closer to 200, steadily raising his strike rate as the overs ran out.
In reply, Canterbury's innings hit a serious speed bump in the third over when Australian quick Chris Tremain struck on consecutive balls to remove both openers.
Once Dean Brownlie also fell, Canterbury needed something special, and it was almost provided by Fulton. He had help from Hira, who hit 43 from 21 before being stumped from the bowling of Jono Boult, putting on a rapid 84 runs for the fourth wicket.
That wicket turned the tide back in the Knights' favour, with their prospects for victory increased by the cheap dismissals of Tom Latham and Brendon Diamanti.
With 20 needed from the final two, a stunning penultimate over from Tremain cost only five runs and produced a wicket, leaving Canterbury requiring too many from the final over.