The defending champion Northern Knights want to maintain the momentum of their convincing first-round win in the Burger King Super Smash T20 when they play the Central Stags at Bay Oval tonight. "We were very happy to get that first-up win," said Tauranga-based Knights coach Gareth Hopkins.
"We have a couple of batsmen hitting the ball really well, and to score anything over 200 in a T20 is very satisfying," he said, referring to the Knights' record score of 215 for six against the Wellington Firebirds on Saturday in Hamilton.
Captain Dean Brownlie led the way then with a scintillating 99 off 46 balls – 76 of them in boundaries with 10 fours and 6 sixes.
This match at Bay Oval, one of only two the Knights will play there during their 10-game Super Smash regular season schedule, is a replay of last season's grand final when the Knights thumped the Stags by nine wickets at Seddon Park.
But Hopkins wants improvements when his team is in the field.
"We were a little rusty there, and with the ball too, so we have to get better in those departments."
The national T20 competition is the vehicle through which one-time Black Caps regular Mitchell Santner is returning to top cricket.
After being out of the game with a serious knee injury, Santner made a useful 22 not out from 13 balls against the Firebirds and then bowled three overs with no discomfort.
"He came through the match well. He looks fine," said Hopkins.
But the news isn't so good for another former Black Cap, Corey Anderson.
He has been named in the squad for this match but is regarded as a doubtful starter because he is still suffering the after-effects of the shingles attack which sidelined him for most of November and meant he was well below his best for the New Zealand A – India A series here a couple of weeks ago.
So far the Knights haven't used an overseas player this season, but Englishman Chris Jordan, who was so devastating in last season's winning campaign, may join the team for some matches after New Year.
"He's coming out to play for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League when Jos Buttler and Joe Root join the England tour of the West Indies next month, so we may get him for a few matches before he goes to Sydney," says Hopkins.
"We're going to lose Anton Devcich to the Thunder then too, but Neil Wagner is likely to come back after the test matches against Sri Lanka."
Devcich, a freelance T20 player, was in superb form with the ball in the opening match against the Firebirds, taking 4 for 27.
The Knights have won six of their last eight games against the Stags, including last year's one-sided final. But the Stags' record on the road has been impressive too, winning four of their last five games away from home, although the quirks of the draw mean this is their first match of the new campaign.
The day at Bay Oval will be a double header with the Northern Spirit women's team playing the Central Hinds at 3.45pm. The teams were due to meet in the first round back in late October but the match was abandoned because of bad weather.
The Spirit have won just one match this season, but the Samantha Curtis-captained side will be favourites at Bay Oval against the winless Hinds.
BK Super Smash T20
Northern Spirit v Central Hinds, 3.45 pm
Northern Knights v Central Stags, 7pm
WHERE: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Northern Knights squad
Dean Brownlie (c)
Northern Spirit Squad
Samantha Curtis (c)