The Knights play their last Super Smash match of the regular season at Seddon Park when they take on the Canterbury Kings tomorrow evening.
The match is a replay of last Wednesday's thrilling encounter at Hagley Oval, where 390 runs were scored and the Knights triumphed by two wickets with two balls to spare.
The Knights are leading the competition and with two away fixtures and one more home match to come at Bay Oval, could yet return to Seddon Park if they secure a finals berth.
Playing at Seddon Park is an experience that Hamiltonian, Daryl Mitchell, always relishes.
"For me, Seddon Park is the best ground in the country," said Mitchell.
"It's a great ground to play at and usually the bank's pretty full, so any time we get to play there is awesome.
"It's where I grew up watching cricket as a little kid but to be fair, I was probably on the banks playing cricket rather than trying to watch!"
When asked about the possibility of returning to Seddon for a finals match, Mitchell was clear that there was still some way to go yet in the competition.
"Last year we were lucky enough to win the final in Hamilton and it was pretty cool having all our family and friends there to celebrate. It would be great to do it again but there's still a lot of work to do before then."
The Knights have named a strong squad for tomorrow's encounter, welcoming back four BLACKCAPS and giving a home debut to Kyle Abbott, who starred with the ball in Saturday's tense win over the Wellington Firebirds.
Kyle Abbott will be available for phone interviews between 4 - 4.30pm Tuesday, January 15. Contact Emily Jones (below) to arrange.
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND SEVEN V CANTERBURY KINGS - WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2019, 7.10pm, SEDDON PARK
Dean Brownlie (c)
Knights 157-7 in 20 overs (Daryl Mitchell 49, Nick Kelly 45, Ollie Newton (3-26) beat Wellington Firebirds (Adam Hose 52, Kyle Abbott 2-19, Daryl Mitchell 2-19) by 12 runs at Basin Reserve, Wellington.
The first and second placed BK Super Smash teams produced a tense contest on a magnificent Wellington afternoon that went to the last over. Daryl Mitchell made a huge contribution with 49 runs and two early wickets as well as classy death bowling, with quality back up by debutant South African Kyle Abbott and Corey Anderson at the bowling crease.
The Knights extend their lead at the top of the table, moving to 20 points from six matches and look very strong for the playoffs.
The Knights, missing key players like Scott Kuggeleijn, Dean Brownlie and Anton Devcich made a bright start through Nick Kelly (45) and Daryl Mitchell, before losing wickets.
Ollie Newton (3-26) and Jeetan Patel (2-27) both showed how to get the most from a surface playing slightly slow, using all their variations to draw false shots and reaped the rewards.
Mitchell repeated his Hagley Oval trick of holding the Knights' innings together, counter-attacking with Daniel Flynn (25) to make 55 for the 5th wicket.
Mitchell was caught by Hamish Bennett one short of his half century, before canny death bowling from the Firebirds saw more wickets fall and no late fireworks from the visitors, who finished on 157-7.
South African import Kyle Abbot started with a wicket maiden, picking up danger man Michael Bracewell misjudging a lap shot for nine in the second over. That man Mitchell then got Conway caught at point for 14, and followed up by bowling debutant Troy Johnson for four.
Adam Hose (52) and Tom Blundell consolidated with a partnership of 64 that edged the Firebirds cautiously closer to the target. Abbot came back to trap Hose LBW, then Corey Anderson got Blundell caught in the deep for 38 and Logan van Beek for two in the same over with 27 still needed late on.
With 19 needed from the last, Michael Pollard and Ollie Newton found Mitchell's slower balls and off cutters elusive, falling short in the long shadows to give the Knights the win by 12 runs.
The Knights have further bolstered stocks with a star international signing for tomorrow's Super Smash match against the Wellington Firebirds.
South African Kyle Abbott has joined the Knights ranks after the departure of Chris Jordan and is with the squad for the rest of the Super Smash campaign.
Former international Abbott brings a big reputation with him in all forms of cricket, including T20, where he has gained valuable experience across a number of leagues.
Within the last year, Abbott has played for Hampshire (England's Vitality Blast), Khulna Titans (Bangladesh Premier League), Lahore Qalandars (Pakistan Super League) and most recently, the Durban Heat (South African Mzansi Super League).
Abbott also has Indian Premier League experience, spending time with the King's XI Punjab.
"It's great to be in New Zealand and I'm looking forward to playing in the Super Smash," Abbott said on his arrival in the country.
Despite coming into a league that is already five matches old where other players have found their feet, Abbott is confident he will be able to adapt quickly.
"The body feels good and it helps that I'm already in T20 mode after my stint with the Durban Heat."
The goal for Abbott is to help build on the solid foundation that has been laid through the Knights achieving four victories from five matches."The team has done so well already, I'm just hoping I can contribute and help push us into the finals."
Canterbury Magicians 165-2 in 20 overs (Frances Mackay 58*, Kate Ebrahim 77*, Carolyn Esterhuizen 2-21) lost to Northern Spirit 167-5 in 19.1 overs (Katie Gurrey 55, Eimear Richardson 43) by five wickets at Hagley Oval, Christchurch.
In a match that went down the wire, the Spirit made the most of a good wicket and fast outfield to chase down the Magicians' formidable 165-2 and end their season on a high. Both sides batted outstandingly, but the Magicians were unable to take the wickets they needed late in the game, going down by five wickets.
After Carolyn Esterhuizen got the dangerous Kirsty Nation for a duck early on, Frankie Mackay picked up where she left off on Sunday, scoring 58 not out after being dropped in the 11th over by Alisha Rout.
She was joined by Kate Ebrahim, who went hard on the attack for an unbeaten 77, including a pair of monstrous sixes from Kate Anderson over square leg, as part of a 129 run partnership with her skipper.
If the Spirit were daunted by the large asking rate, they didn't show it. Katie Gurrey kept her spot at the top of the run scoring charts with 55 as part of a 66 run opening stand with Bernadine Bezuidenhout (17).
Frankie Mackay dragged her side back into the match, first getting Bezuidenhout caught at mid-on in the seventh over, then taking a brilliant catch to remove Gurrey at long-on in the 10th.
Anderson came and went quickly and with over eight an over still needed, Felicity Leydon-Davis (41*) and Eimear Richardson (43) hit out fearlessly and ran smart singles to tick off the runs required.
There were nervous moments when Mackay (2-25) removed Richardson and Samantha Curtis in successive balls in the 17th, but the Spirit went into the last over needing just three runs. Leydon-Davis stepped inside the line to hit Ebrahim's first ball for four and earn the win by five wickets.
Canterbury Kings 193-5 in 20 overs (Chad Bowes 67, Andrew Ellis 45) lost to the Knights 197-8 in 19.4 overs (Brett Hampton 55, Andrew Ellis 3-35) by two wickets at Hagley Oval.
The Knights extended their lead at the top of the BK Super Smash table with a two wicket win over the Canterbury Kings at Hagley Oval. The home team did everything but win, scoring 193-5 and taking eight wickets, but couldn't stop the Knights executing a finely judged chase.
Returning BLACKCAP Tom Latham had no luck, caught by Daryl Mitchell at point on the first ball of the game. In contrast, his opening partner Chad Bowes formed the backbone of the Kings' innings with 67 from 46 balls, batting through until the 16th over, having set his side up for a huge score.
The Knights called on seven bowlers as they tried to contain the onslaught, including English international Chris Jordan (2-36) and BLACKCAPS Mitchell Santner (1-23) and Neil Wagner, who conceded 0-27 from his two overs.
Bowes was supported by an aggressive Andrew Ellis, who plundered 45 from just 30 balls, Cole McConchie (24 from 14) and Cam Fletcher (22 from 14) as the Kings stormed to an intimidating 193-5.
The Knights struggled to get momentum, losing early wickets until Brett Hampton settled, then launched. He formed a dangerous partnership with Corey Anderson before Ellis claimed Anderson's wicket for 17, then Hampton's for 55 to bring new men to the crease when the pressure was on.
22 were needed from the last two overs, and Flynn, who'd been dropped by Fletcher, hit Ellis for six and was caught two balls later in a juggling catch by Jeremy Benton at a crucial time.
Jordan (17) hit two consecutive balls for four to leave the Knights needing five runs from the last over, before he was was promptly caught by Bowes in the deep.
Scott Kuggeleijn (7*) and Wagner (0*) were left to get the runs and with three from three needed, Kuggeleijn cooly hit Edward Nuttall for six to hand the Knights the win by two wickets.
Katie Gurrey and Bernadine Bezuidenhout will have the chance to finish the Burger King Super Smash campaign as the competition's leading run-scorer when they play their final match against the Canterbury Magicians tomorrow at Hagley Oval.
Gurrey currently sits first with 243 runs, while Bezuidenhout is in second with 211 runs.
Along with runs scored, they sit near the top of several other batting charts.
They have the second and third-highest scores in the competition respectively; Gurrey with a top score of 79 and Bezuidenhout 77 not out, while Gurrey has hit the most fours (44) and Bezuidenhout the second-highest number of sixes (4).
Spirit head coach Kari Carswell is obviously pleased to have two in-form players opening the innings for her side.
"Katie and Bernadine are both quality players, so seeing them among the top run-scorers isn't a surprise," said Carswell.
"Building momentum in our innings is so much easier when you can rely on at least one of your openers to produce a good score.
"Hopefully they both score big tomorrow and help us end our Super Smash campaign with a win," added Carswell.
The Spirit have made great strides in the second half of the season, adding a couple of wins to their solitary victory in the first half of the competition.
Tomorrow's match is the last of the double-headers for the Northern Districts sides, with the Knights taking on the Canterbury Kings after the Spirit match.
The sides find themselves at opposite ends of the ladder, with the Knights sitting in first and the Kings propping up the table in sixth.
The Knights have been able to rely on performances from the whole squad, with different players delivering in each match.
Both teams will be desperate for a win; the Knights to consolidate their position, and the Kings to ensure they are not cut adrift as the competition nears the halfway mark.
The Knights have got the better of the Canterbury Kings in recent times, winning three of the last four matches between the sides, but the Kings perform well at home, having only lost one of their last seven home matches.
SKYCITY HAMILTON NORTHERN SPIRIT BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND TEN V CANTERBURY MAGICIANS - WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2019, 12.45pm, HAGLEY OVAL
Samantha Curtis (c)
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND FIVE V CANTERBURY KINGS - WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2019, 4.00pm, HAGLEY OVAL
Dean Brownlie (c)
Mitchell SantnerNeil Wagner
Auckland Hearts 148-5 in 20 overs (Arlene Kelly 41*, Alisha Rout 2-21) beat Northern Spirit 124-7 in 20 overs (Anna Peterson 1-20, Bernadine Bezuidenhout 77*) by 24 runs at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
A fine team performance from the Auckland Hearts was too much for the Northern Spirit at Seddon Park. Arlene Kelly's 41* and 1-22 with the ball was the stand out for the visitors, while Bernadine Bezuidenhout's fine 77* wasn't enough to get the Spirit home.
After a slightly unsteady start, Lauren Down (29) and Maddy Green (17)'s partnership for the second wicket got the Hearts off to a bright start before Green was caught in the deep trying to hit Anderson out of the park in the ninth over, followed by Down the next over.
Katey Perkins (29) and Holly Huddleston (15) supported Arlene Kelly's 41 not out from just 21 balls to keep the momentum up through to the finish.
Kelly climbed into the Spirit bowlers from the start, smashing boundaries all around the park including a big six down the ground from Kate Anderson, as the Hearts finished on 148-5.
In reply, Bernadine Bezuidenhout's 77* from 64 balls was the backbone of the Spirit's chase, but she struggled to find the partners required to chase down the target.
Bezuidenhout plundered seven fours and two sixes in her innings - but some excellent Hearts bowling and fielding forced three run outs, helping keep the pressure on the Spirit.
Kelly (1-22), Anna Peterson (1-20) and Roz McNeill (1-20 from three) all helped put the brakes on, and despite Bezuidenhout's heroics, the Hearts' total was always just too far out of reach.
Knights 155-9 in 20 overs (Daryl Mitchell 78, Mitchell McClenaghan 3-23, Donovan Grobbelaar 3-29) beat Auckland Aces 153-9 in 20 overs (Craig Cachopa 39, Will Somerville 37, Scott Kuggeleijn 4-18) by two runs at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
The Knights return to the top of the BK Super Smash table with a two run win over the Aces that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Daryl Mitchell's 78 was the backbone of the home team's innings in the face of some hostile Aces bowling, while the Knights were able to take wickets at crucial times and take the win despite some late Will Somerville hitting.
Mitchell McClenaghan (3-23) wrecked havoc at the top of the innings with a fiery display, removing dangerous Knights openers Anton Devcich LBW for six and and Dean Brownlie caught and bowled for 12.
Donovan Grobbelaar (3-29) picked up where McClenaghan left off, and was on a hat trick after removing Mitchell Santner (12) and Daniel Flynn (0) in successive balls.
As wickets continued to tumble in the lower order, Mitchell's 78 from just 51 balls proved crucial and his promotion to first drop proved a master stroke as the Knights were able to scramble to 155-9.
In reply, the Aces started brightly with Sean Solia (20) and Glenn Phillips (20) combining for 32 after losing James Vince early for one.
Mitchell Santer wrestled the momentum back for the home team by removing Phillips and Mark Champman in the ninth over - skipper Craig Cachopa then strode out to try and win the match in a hurry, hitting some huge blows as he raced to 39 from 17 before he was caught by Dean Brownlie in the covers from Devcich to deal the Aces' hopes a body blow.
Some late Somerville hitting almost provided a twist in the tale, but Scott Kuggeleijn, who had steamed in all day, took three wickets in the 17th over to end the contest and help his team back to the top of the table.
Chris Jordan has returned to the Knights and is in the squad for Sunday's home clash with the Auckland Aces at Seddon Park.
Jordan was a star of last season's competition and a favourite of the Knights faithful, helping them to the Super Smash title last season.
He returns to the Knights for two matches before heading to the Big Bash with the Sydney Thunder and is looking forward to being back in the Knights set-up.
"I'm so excited to be joining the Knights again," said Jordan.
"I had so much fun last year, especially winning the competition.
"I'm only here for two games, but hopefully I can have enough of an impact to help us go all the way again."
Jordan returns to a team who find themselves in familiar territory at the top of the table after three rounds.
Sunday's encounter promises to be a thriller, with plenty of runs scored across two tightly-fought encounters in last year's competition.
In the day's earlier match, the SkyCity Hamilton Northern Spirit will look to make it three on the bounce when they take on the Auckland Hearts.
The Spirit have played some quality cricket since the resumption of the competition, falling short in a close match against the Wellington Blaze before overcoming the Central Hinds and Otago Sparks in consecutive matches.
Head coach Kari Carswell said it was difficult to identify what factors had contributed to the Spirit's recent upturn in form.
"We haven't really changed too much to be honest. We've kept training hard, stuck to our plans and now we're starting to get our reward."
"We were playing some good cricket before but just not getting across the line in those matches, so maybe it's just that our luck has turned," added Carswell.
Sunday is the last home match of the campaign for the Spirit and with it, the last home double header; a feature of the calendar which Carswell said has been a great experience.
"Seeing the side play in front of these crowds, with the Knights playing straight after, has been amazing. You can't help but get caught up in the excitement of it all," said Carswell.
"It would be great to finish our home matches with another win and to keep climbing the table."
SKYCITY HAMILTON NORTHERN SPIRIT BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND NINE V AUCKLAND HEARTS - SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019, 12.45pm
Samantha Curtis (c)
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND FOUR V AUCKLAND ACES - SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019, 4.00pm
Dean Brownlie (c)
Mitchell SantnerNeil Wagner
Knight Tim Southee will captain the BLACKCAPS T20 side in next Friday's one-off match against Sri Lanka, at Eden Park in Auckland.
With regular skipper Kane Williamson resting, Southee will lead the T20 team for the third time in his career.
He'll have the services of fellow Knight and spin bowling all-rounder Mitchell Santner to call on, as the 26-year-old returns to the international fold following knee surgery in March.
BLACKCAPS Selector Gavin Larsen said it was an exciting stage of the season with so much white-ball cricket in store.
"A T20 International at Eden Park on a Friday night is always a big occasion and one the players will relish," said Larsen.
"Tim did a really good job leading the side against Pakistan and the West Indies last season and he's got a nice mix of proven performers and some fresh faces to work with.
"We're delighted to welcome Mitchell back into the BLACKCAPS environment and he's shown in his performances for the Knights in the BK Super Smash that he's ready for international cricket again."
With Knight Trent Boult taking a well-earned break, fellow Knights pace-bowler Scott Kuggeleijn has received his maiden T20 call-up, while all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has been selected with Knight Colin de Grandhomme resting.
"It's nice to have the luxury of freshening-up a few of our key guys following a long tour of the UAE and a fast transition into the home summer," said Larsen.
"That presents a great opportunity for the likes of Henry, Scott and Jimmy - who have all been performing strongly for their respective teams recently and deserve their chances should they come."
The Auckland Aces opening pair of Colin Munro and Martin Guptill will team up at the top of the order, while Knight Tim Seifert will continue as the short-form wicket-keeper.
Adam Milne and Knight Corey Anderson weren't considered for selection as they continue to get back to full fitness, while Todd Astle's rehabilitation is progressing well and he will likely return for the Canterbury Kings in the near future.Craig McMillan will coach the side for the one-off match as Gary Stead takes a short break before the India series later this month.
BLACKCAPS T20 squad v Sri Lanka
Tim Southee (c) - Knights
Lockie Ferguson - Auckland Aces
Martin Guptill - Auckland Aces
Scott Kuggeleijn - Knights
Colin Munro - Auckland Aces
Jimmy Neesham - Wellington Firebirds
Henry Nicholls - Canterbury Kings
Glenn Phillips - Auckland Aces
Seth Rance - Central Stags
Mitchell Santner - Knights
Tim Seifert (wk) - Knights
Ish Sodhi - Knights
Ross Taylor - Central Stags
Otago Sparks 150-7 in 20 overs (Millie Cowan 61, Alice Davidson-Richards 58, Alisha Rout 3-15) lost to Northern Spirit 151-3 in 17.5 overs (Katie Gurrey 79, Bernadine Bezuidenhout 49) by seven wickets at Molyneux Park, Alexandra.
Opener Katie Gurrey's blistering 79 runs from just 51 balls broke the back of the chase for the Northern Spirit as they romped to a seven-wicket win to keep their finals hopes alive. The Sparks seemed set for a massive score themselves but when they lost openers Alice Davidson-Richards (58) and Millie Cowan (61), their lower-order failed to kick-on and post what could have been a much bigger target.
"I thought they were on track to get over two hundred, but credit to our bowlers and our fielding effort - we started a little flat but we stepped up, and were able to put the brakes on," said the Spirit's Katie Gurrey.
Cowan struck 12 fours in her innings, hitting hard through the line against the Spirit seamers and spinners alike, while Davidson-Richards continued her hot form with a blend of subtle laps and reverse sweeps, along with some strong pull shots.
Alisha Rout bowled Cowan in the 11th over, and repeated the trick in her next over to remove the in-form Katey Martin for just three and help turn the momentum around. She finished with 3-15 as the Sparks limped to 150-7 from their 20 overs.
In the second innings Gurrey and Bernadine Bezuidenhout came out flying, adapting to the conditions flawlessly and showing no mercy on the Sparks attack, the pair threatening to chase down the Sparks' total on her own.
"The pitch was a little slow and low today, so I was on the front foot a lot more than usual - once you got used it, it turned out pretty well," said Gurrey.
She eventually went in the 13th over, caught by Polly Inglis at mid off from Eden Carson's bowling for 79 with just 39 more needed for the win.
That was the signal for Bezuidenhout, who'd played the perfect supporting role until then, to put the foot down and help the Spirit reach the target with two overs and a ball to spare, despite losing a couple of quick wickets towards the close.
Otago Volts 99-7 in 20 overs (Neil Broom 22, Scott Kuggeleijn 2-11) lost to the Knights 101-5 in 17.4 overs (Dean Brownlie 34*, Daryl Mitchell 27, Jacob Duffy 3-18) by five wickets at Molyneux Park, Alexandra.
The Volts limped to 99-7 in their 20 overs thanks to tricky conditions and deadly accurate bowling and tight fielding from the visitors. The Knights had to chase in the drizzle but got there with 14 balls to spare thanks to Dean Brownlie and Daryl Mitchell's 50 run partnership, but were made to work for every run.
Neil Broom and Anaru Kitchen got to grips with the conditions best to score 31 and 22, but both men struggled to find batting partners.
Seam bowlers from both sides exploited the conditions effectively to tie batsmen down, then strike as they tried to break the shackles. Hamish Rutherford, Kitchen and Christi Viljoen were all bowled trying to hit the ball out of the park.
Scott Kuggeleijn gave nothing away and was rewarded with figures of 2-11 from his four overs, while Ish Sodhi (2-18) and Mitchell Santner (1-16) showed their class as the Volts were left ruing some of their shot selection.
The Knights found the going equally as tough in light drizzle that started in the innings break, and lost early wickets with Anton Devcich (15), Tim Seifert (4) both bowled, and Brett Hampton (11) LBW to a ball that kept extremely low.
Dean Brownlie (34*) and Daryl Mitchell (27) came together and took a conservative approach, running singles and aiming to take around a boundary per over to inch closer to the target. With a run rate of just three an over from seven overs out, it was always going to be tough for the Volts to defend, but they made the visitors work for every run.
The partnership reached 50 when Mitchell was bowled by Jacob Duffy for 27 valuable runs attempting a lap shot.
Duffy was giving it everything, and claimed Corey Anderson's wicket thanks to a fine Hamish Rutherford catch at mid-wicket, but ultimately the Volts didn't have enough runs to defend. Fittingly, it was Brownlie who hit the winning runs with a four and take the match by five wickets.
The Knights and SkyCity Hamilton Northern Spirit head to Alexandra tomorrow for their first double-header on the road against the teams from Otago.
Both matches present different challenges for each team.
The Knights play table-topping Otago Volts and are looking to bounce back from a close defeat at the hands of the Central Stags, while the Spirit will look to build on a good win against the Central Hinds when they take on mid-table Otago Sparks.
Thursday's matches saw the Knights set 156 and they were looking good for the win when they reduced the Central Stags to 41/4 during the chase, but a brilliant innings by Tom Bruce ultimately won the match for the Stags.
This leaves the Knights with one win and one loss from their first two matches, with plenty of games still to come in the competition.
Conversely, the Spirit managed to get their second win of the Super Smash campaign when they defeated the Central Hinds by five wickets.
The Spirit produced a quality bowling performance to restrict the Hinds to 113 from their 20 overs, before a professionally executed chase saw them win with seven balls to spare.
The win was very timely for the Spirit given they only have three fixtures remaining.
These matches will be the last of the year for both sides and, with a week until their next fixtures, two wins will go a long way to keeping morale high in both camps over the long break.
SKYCITY HAMILTON NORTHERN SPIRIT BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND EIGHT V OTAGO SPARKS - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018, 12.45pm
Samantha Curtis (c)
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND THREE V OTAGO VOLTS - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018, 4.00pm
Dean Brownlie (c)
Tim SeifertIsh Sodhi
Central Hinds 113-7 in 20 overs (Jess Watkin 27, Mikaela Greig 24, Kate Anderson 2-17) lost to Northern Spirit 114-5 in 18.5 overs (Katie Gurrey 36, Kate Anderson 27) by five wickets at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.
The Hinds' innings was crying out for meaningful partnerships that never came, thanks to the Spirit's miserly bowling and tight fielding, who then timed their chase to perfection thanks to Katie Gurrey and Kate Anderson, to get home with seven balls to spare.
The Spirit were forcing the Hinds to make the play with a triple spin attack of Carolyn Esterhuizen, Eimear Richardson, and Kate Anderson on a pitch with low bounce.
Emily Cunningham misjudged Eimear Richardson playing across the line and was given LBW for 11, before Jess Watkin came down the track to hit her fifth ball for six over long on to make her intentions clear.
Natalie Dodd was caught in the deep for eight, followed swiftly by skipper Anlo de Venter, trapped LBW by Anderson for five and Kerry Tomlinson, caught for the same score to give Anderson her second wicket.
Alisha Rout made Watkin hole out to Brooke Halliday at fine leg for 27 from 25, before running Hannah Rowe out for 12 from close range off her own bowling soon after.
Mikaela Greig offered some hope, hitting Esterhuizen for three sixes in a row to the same spot straight down the ground to bring up the Hinds' 100 and get them near respectability.
In the chase, Bernadine Bezuidenhout and Katie Gurrey punished anything loose, making the most of some loose fielding from the Hinds early, with a handful of misfields resulting in boundaries.
Gurrey was traveling comfortably before pushing a single too hard and falling to a Hannah Rowe direct hit for 36 in the 12th to set the Spirit's nerves jangling, with six an over needed from that point.
Anderson and Richardson played it sensibly, picking off singles peppered by the odd boundary, with an Anderson cover drive for four and a six over long off the standouts.
Richardson was caught on the rope from Watkin's bowling to leave 17 needed from the last three overs, before Anderson was bowled by Rosemary Mair for 27 from a slower ball that took an age to get there.
Felicity Leydon-Davis hit Hannah Rowe down the ground for four to settle the nerves, before getting the runs alongside her skipper Sam Curtis with seven balls to spare.
Knights 156-8 in 20 overs (Tim Seifert 55, Blair Tickner 32-3) lost to Central Stags (Tom Bruce 88*, Doug Bracewell 21, Mitchell Santner 25-2) by five wickets at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.
Champing at the bit to join the competition, the Stags completed a superb chase thanks to skipper Tom Bruce's unbeaten 88*, despite being put under pressure by the Knights for long periods of time on a fine evening in Mount Maunganui.
In brilliant sunshine, the Knights came out firing with the big-hitting Tim Seifert and Anton Devcich going hard from the start and hitting some spectacular boundaries.
Doug Bracewell, who went for 17 from his first over, got revenge somewhat when he caught Devcich for 23 with a tremendous catch at mid-on over his head, running back and only just hanging on.
Seifert was celebrating his BLACKCAPS call up with all the shots, keeping the score ticking along at over seven an over with both singles and big boundaries, before becoming Blair Tickner's third victim for 55 from 42 balls with a miscue down the ground - when Santner was bowled next ball by Felix Murray, the momentum shifted to the visitors.
Daryl Mitchell (20) and Daniel Flynn (27) kept things rolling, but a flurry of wickets at the end meant there may well have been runs left on the table as they reached 156-8 in the 20.
In the Stags' chase, George Worker went early for six, caught by Seifert in the second over, while Devcich grabbed Dane Cleaver the next over, driving low to Dean Brownlie for nine.
Scott Kuggeleijn was bowling with a plenty of fire and got Will Young to chase a wide delivery and picked him up caught at second slip for one, while Mitchell Santner got Josh Clarkson for seven with his second ball.
The Stags' tall order kept getting taller in the face of a classy attack. Bruce and Doug Bracewell took 18 from a Daryl Mitchell over to keep things going, before Bruce brought up his 50 with a big six over mid-wicket, but lost his batting partner in the same over, skying Santner to Brownlie in the covers for 21.
Needing ten an over for an extended period, Bruce played it to perfection with some cracking boundaries among the hard-ran singles. He was joined by Kieran Noema-Barnett (15*), who showed his experience by feeding the strike to Bruce, who completed the chase that looked beyond his team at times with four balls to spare to make it one from one for the Stags.
The Knights will seek to build on a successful first outing in the Super Smash when they take on the Central Stags at Bay Oval tomorrow.
On a first day which was a great advertisement for the competition, the Knights hit 215/6 off their 20 overs, headlined by captain Dean Brownlie's 99 off just 46 balls.
In reply, the Wellington Firebirds were bowled out for 170, with Anton Devcich playing the star-hand in the bowling innings, claiming 4/27 from his four overs.
It was a day where several records were broken, most notably, the record for the highest total the Knights have ever made, eclipsing the 214/9 set against the Auckland Aces last season.
This has set the tone for what the Knights hope will be another title-winning campaign.
The Central Stags come to Mount Maunganui for their first match in the competition and a point to prove in what is a rematch of last year's Super Smash final.
It will be a tight contest, with history favouring both sides.
The Central Stags have won four of their last five games away from home in the competition, while the Knights have won six of their last eight games against the Central Stags.
One of these good runs is set to be dented tomorrow evening.
The SkyCity Hamilton Northern Spirit will also take the field tomorrow as Bay Oval hosts its sole Super Smash double-header of the summer.
The Spirit played some good cricket against the Wellington Blaze on December 22, but ultimately came up short, losing by 26 runs after being restricted to 118 in pursuit of 144.
At 95/2 after 14 overs, the Spirit were well-placed to haul down the Wellington Blaze's total before a flurry of wickets led the Blaze to victory.
Taking on the Spirit tomorrow are the Central Hinds, who are yet to win a match in the competition.
The two sides were due to meet in the first round back in October, before rain had the final say without a ball being bowled.
SKYCITY HAMILTON NORTHERN SPIRIT BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND SEVEN V CENTRAL HINDS - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2018, 3.45pm
Samantha Curtis (c)
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND TWO V CENTRAL STAGS - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2018, 7.00pm
Dean Brownlie (c)
Wellington Blaze 144-2 in 20 overs (Doolan 70) beat Northern Spirit 118-9 in 20 overs (Deanna Doughty 4-16) by 26 runs at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Lucy Doolan's 70 from 62 balls and two wickets helped the Wellington Blaze to 144-2 from their 20 overs, and a 26-run win.
Sent in by the Spirit, the visitors only lost two wickets in their innings, but didn't have it all their own way.
Rebecca Burns and Amelia Kerr backed themselves to go over the top early, but Burns went to the well too many times and was caught on the rope by Felicity Leydon-Davis for 28 from 23. Kerr followed for 25 from 19 when she was run out pushing too hard for a single.
Doolan cashed in for eight fours through her innings, but the Spirit's death bowling was accurate enough to put the brakes on and prevent the Blaze putting a really big total on the board.
In reply, Spirit opener Kate Gurrey looked dangerous, striking 20 from 13 balls before keeper Jessica McFadyen took the first of her four stumpings to dismiss Gurrey.
After getting her eye in, Leydon-Davis went hard at anything loose and took several boundaries behind square, with Samantha Curtis getting in on the act with a big six from Deanna Doughty in the 13th.
The Spirit chase faltered when Curtis was stumped for 29, shortly followed by Leydon-Davis for the same score to a juggling catch behind the stumps by McFadyen.
From that point wickets started tumbling, with Kerr getting Alisha Rout stumped, and then bowling Mereana Hyde to sit on a hat trick she couldn't convert this time. She finished with three wickets for ten runs, while leg spin partner Doughty had four for 16.
"It's good to bat some time and bat through the innings, which doesn't often happen!" said Doolan. "Playing in a double-header is a great opportunity for the girls and adds an extra little bit to the game. It's great and the girls are excited to be part of it."
Knights 215-6 in 20 overs (Dean Brownlie 99, Tim Seifert 46) beat the Wellington Firebirds 170 all out in 18.1overs (Devon Conway 45, Anton Devcich 4-27) by 45 runs at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Dean Brownlie's 99 lead the Knights to a formidable 215-6 from their 20, and despite a spirited start, the Firebirds chase ran out of steam to hand the defending champions a 45-run win to start their campaign.
Anton Devcich went second ball trying to hit Luke Woodcock out of the park, before Tim Seifert and Dean Brownlie combined for 72 runs at a good clip, hitting cleanly through the field and then going over it. They took 22 runs from Woodcock in the eighth, before Seifert fell chipping Jeetan Patel back to the bowler for 46 from 28.
Daryl Mitchell took his toll on some over-pitched bowling, striking three big sixes before English import Adam Hose took a stylish running catch at fine leg to remove him for 29 from 17.
Brownlie was on fire, rocketing into the 90s, showing no nerves to hit the attack all around the ground before being dramatically bowled by Jimmy Neesham on 99, missing out on a deserved century.
Mitchell Santner, making a return from a long term injury, got 22 from 13 at the death to bring the Knights to 215-6 from their 20.
Devon Conway upped the scoring rate early, taking 17 from a Scott Kuggeleijn over, while Michael Bracewell was removed by a flying Brett Hampton catch, racing in from the square leg boundary and diving low for a great grab.
Conway was in control, hitting boundaries around the ground with cleanly struck, proper cricket shots including some vicious cuts, to show why he's such an exciting prospect.
Just when things were starting to get away on the Knights, Ish Sodhi bowled Conway for 45 from 23 with a fine googly, to bring Jimmy Neesham to the crease. He looked in good touch, racing to 22 from 13 before slashing Sodhi to cover where Brownlie reeled in the catch.
Michael Pollard and Tom Blundell rebuilt steadily before Pollard was caught at deep mid wicket by Santner with a low diving catch for 24, and Blundell holed out for 20, giving Mitchell a wicket to his delight.
Devcich dismissed Woodcock and Ollie Newton in two balls but missed his hat trick - he finished with 4-27 as the Knights did it comfortably in the end, winning by 45 runs.
The Knights are incredibly pleased to be able to call on the services of the Burger King Super Smash Player of the Season for 2017/18, Anton Devcich, for the upcoming Super Smash campaign.
Earlier in the year Devcich declined a contract with Northern Districts to allow him to pursue cricketing opportunities overseas. Devcich has since returned to the ND set-up in an uncontracted capacity.
In his time away from ND, Devcich has forged a successful path around the world, playing in the Global T20 Canada, Afghanistan Premier League and Caribbean Premier League. A stint in the Big Bash League with Sydney Thunder and the Pakistan Super League with the Lahore Qalandars will follow Devcich's Knights commitments.
"My goal is to represent the BLACKCAPS and to do that I need to improve and gain more experience in pressure situations," Devcich said of his decision to head overseas.
"I am also very happy and privileged to continue my cricket career in New Zealand with Northern Districts for another season. Although I am not contracted, I am still extremely dedicated to the Association, they have been supportive of my decision and as always, lead the way in all aspects of cricket in New Zealand."
The ability to call on Devcich's ability and experience will be invaluable for the Knights as they seek to retain their Super Smash title. Last season, Devcich was the competition's top run scorer with 343 runs at a strike-rate of 168 and took the second-highest number of wickets with 15, at an RPO of 6.39.
"I'm feeling good, I'm ready to help the Knights defend our title, and I'm hoping my performances will be enough to earn me a BLACKCAPS recall."
Devcich has represented ND since 2004, playing 84 T20 matches along the way, which has seen him score the most runs for the Knights (1845) and take the most wickets (55).
Northern Districts are pleased to announce that Knights head coach Gareth Hopkins has signed a one-year contract extension until the end of the 2019/20 season.
Hopkins experienced immediate success last season when he won the Super Smash at the first time of asking.
"I got the call from the CEO about the extension offer which was a good vote of confidence from the board as they took a bit of a punt on me last year," said Hopkins.
"I'm very much looking forward to getting back into it with the guys and trying to win this competition again."
Northern Districts CEO Ben MacCormack was understandably pleased to have secured Hopkins' services for another season.
"We were very impressed with Gareth and his coaching abilities last season, which were obvious for everyone to see when we won the Super Smash," MacCormack said.
"What wasn't in plain sight was the amount of preparation Gareth undertook to make that campaign successful. Gareth and his team were very methodical and thorough with all aspects of the format, the competition and, of course, the Knights."
"We are very much looking forward to Gareth building on last season towards a sustained period of success."
While the extension is welcome news for all concerned, Hopkins has already turned his attention to matters on the field.
"We made some positive strides in the way we play last year, so we need to build on that and continue to push boundaries if we are to continue our success," added Hopkins."The entire Association is very motivated to go back-to-back."