Knights batting all-rounder Daryl Mitchell has earned his maiden call-up to the BLACKCAPS T20 squad for the three-match series against India, starting in Wellington on Wednesday.
Mitchell has been included in the squad after a strong Burger King Super Smash campaign and some solid form for New Zealand A in one-day cricket.
BLACKCAPS selector Gavin Larsen said Mitchell had won over the selectors on the back of impressive performances for the Knights, the most recent of which saw him smash 61 off just 23 balls against the Stags in Napier.
"Daryl has been rewarded for the strong form he's produced in domestic cricket," said Larsen.
"He's been there or thereabouts for most of the season and featured in our NZ A short-format teams.
"Daryl has shown his value with the bat and also tends to bowl at some tough times for the Knights."
Mitchell adds to a strong Knights presence in the squad, with Kane Williamson, Colin de Grandhomme, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi and Tim Southee also included in the BLACKCAPS.
Other changes to the most recent T20 outing against Sri Lanka include the return of captain Kane Williamson in place of Henry Nicholls.
The three-game series against India will be double-headers alongside the WHITE FERNS and India women, who will play beforehand on the same pitch.
BLACKCAPS T20 squad v India
Kane Williamson (c)
Colin de Grandhomme
Lockie Ferguson (Games 1 & 2)
Tim Seifert (wk)
Ross TaylorBlair Tickner (Game 3)
Knights 230-5 in 20 overs (Brett Hampton 64, Daryl Mitchell 61, Blair Tickner 2-37) beat the Central Stags (99 all out, Tarun Nethula 6-23) by 131 runs at McLean Park, Napier.
In a match which pitted first against second in the Burger King Super Smash, the Knights made a big statement with the finals just around the corner, producing a brilliant display with bat and ball to defeat the Central Stags by 131 runs.
The day started well for the Central Stags when skipper Tom Bruce won the toss and told the Knights to pad up. Bruce, who was also donning the keeping gloves in the absence of the injured Dane Cleaver, then helped the Stags get off to the perfect start by stumping Nick Kelly for a duck off the bowling of Dean Foxcroft.
Knights skipper Dean Brownlie then joined Tim Seifert at the crease and the two set about putting the early wicket behind them, building a 70-run partnership before Ajaz Patel had Seifert caught for 35. Brownlie fell 24 runs later for 40, with the score at 95-3 in the 12th over.
While the platform was somewhat laid, no one could have anticipated the onslaught that ensued when Daryl Mitchell joined Brett Hampton at the crease. 34 breath-taking balls later, Hampton and Mitchell had added 98 runs before Hampton fell for 64 off 31 balls, which included two massive sixes which left McLean Park.
Mitchell then continued the carnage after Hampton's departure, bringing up his own half-century off just 20 balls. He would eventually fall in the final over to Blair Tickner, the pick of the Stags bowlers with 2/37, for 61 off 23 balls. Corey Anderson and Scott Kuggeleijn saw the innings through to its conclusion, with the Knights scoring a whopping 230-5 off their 20 overs - the highest score in the Super Smash this season.
The Stags knew they had to make a fast start but as with the Knights innings, they lost a wicket in the first over, Will Young trapped in front lbw for 1 by Neil Wagner. It got worse for the Stags in the following over when Young's opening partner George Worker chopped-on from Kuggeleijn.
If the Knights hadn't already made the perfect start, they certainly had 11 balls later as Kuggeleijn removed the Super Smash's top run-scorer and their nemesis in the return fixture earlier in the season, Tom Bruce, caught-behind for four. The sixth over saw the departure of Kieran Noema-Barnett with a beautiful yorker from Wagner sending his stumps cartwheeling. The Stags had found themselves 42-4 and their chase seemingly over before it had begun; Dean Foxcroft providing the only resistance to be 18*.
The match was then all about Tarun Nethula, whose wonderful spell of spin bowling combined with the Stags' need for fast runs provided the catalyst for Nethula to achieve career-best Super Smash bowling figures: 3.1 overs, 23 runs for 6 wickets.
He removed Stags' top-scorer Foxcroft for 23, taking a catch off his own bowling before removing Josh Clarkson, who also made 23. He removed Wilem Ludick three balls later, before taking two wickets in successive balls in his next over, giving Nethula his five-for and leaving him on a hat-trick.
The Stags managed to deny Nethula his hat-trick, but he took the final wicket with the first ball of his next over, giving him his incredible figures and ending the Stags innings after 85 balls which yielded 99 runs; giving the Knights a massive victory by 131 runs.
The result means the Knights are now guaranteed a first or second-place finish with two matches to go. They could be confirmed as first-place finishers this weekend, should the Auckland Aces fail to beat the Canterbury Kings.
While it was a tough outing for the Stags, their fate is still in their own hands and they will finish second if they win their two remaining matches.
McLean Park will host the biggest Burger King Super Smash match this season when the Knights travel to Napier for a battle with the Central Stags.
It is a match which pits the two front-runners of the competition against each other, with the Knights holding a six-point lead on the Central Stags.
The match looks certain to be an entertaining one, with three of the last four Super Smash innings at McLean Park yielding more than 200 runs.
This includes the Central Stags passing 200 on each occasion, meaning the Knights will need to be at their best with the ball and in the field to restrict their opposition.
The Central Stags are also the only side to have beaten the Knights this season when they emerged victorious by five wickets at Bay Oval.
All this means the Knights are well-aware of the challenge ahead of them, however they can take great confidence in their own abilities and form.
The Knights are yet to lose on the road this season and have won five in a row.
Of further interest to the Knights will be the fact that this fixture has been won by the away side in three of the last four matches.
With just three rounds to go, a win for the Knights would all but guarantee them first-place and hosting rights for the Super Smash Grand Final, providing all the motivation required ahead of tomorrow's match.
KNIGHTS BURGER KING SUPER SMASH SQUAD - ROUND EIGHT V CENTRAL STAGS - FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2019, 7.10pm, MCLEAN PARK
Dean Brownlie (c)
Neil WagnerJoe Walke
Katie Gurrey has made the WHITE FERNS squad for the first time after being been selected in the T20 squad to play India Women next month.
Gurrey's selection is in recognition of her fantastic Burger King Super Smash campaign for the SkyCity Hamilton Northern Spirit, where she finished as the second-highest run-scorer with 298 runs, despite only batting seven innings - four less than first-placed Frankie Mackay, who scored 69 runs more with 367.
"When I received the call that I had made the squad I was on a lunch break from work. It's an amazing feeling and I am super excited for the opportunity to represent my country," said Gurrey on her selection.
Gurrey's amazing Super Smash campaign is further displayed by the fact that she scored the most fours in the competition (53), had the fourth-best strike-rate (121.14) and averaged 42.57; scoring four half-centuries from her seven innings.
So what does Gurrey attribute her form to?
"Walking out to the middle with confidence and aggression: these were key to me performing my role for the team; playing an attacking role from the start of the innings."
The Hallyburton Johnston Shield one-day competition is another stage where Gurrey has displayed her abilities, scoring a brilliant 102 against unbeaten competition-leaders, Auckland Hearts.
These performances made Gurrey hard to ignore, said WHITE FERNS head coach Haidee Tiffen.
"Katie can be proud of how she performed in the Burger King Super Smash," said Tiffen.
"We are rewarding players who are in form and we feel that Katie deserves a chance at the highest level."
When asked about what most-impressed her about Gurrey, Tiffen found it difficult to narrow it down to just one factor.
"Katie is a big striker of the cricket ball; she's an attacking batswomen and plays with a lot of courage," replied Tiffen.
ND cricket fans will have a chance to see Gurrey don the fern when the final match of the series comes to Hamilton's Seddon Park.
Knights 154-5 in 16 overs (Nick Kelly 56, Corey Anderson 38) beat Canterbury Kings 146-6 in 16 overs (Henry Nicholls 40, Cam Fletcher 38*, Corey Anderson 2-31) by six runs on Duckworth Lewis at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
The Knights' BLACKCAPS stacked team found a way to win against the Canterbury Kings at Seddon Park to move ten points clear at the top of the BK Super Smash table with three games to play in the regular season.
Powerful hitting from Corey Anderson and Nick Kelly, along with masterful death bowling from South African import Kyle Abbott and Daryl Mitchell gave the hosts a six run D/L win, and move them closer to returning to Hamilton for finals cricket.
Hamilton rain meant a stop-start beginning to the match. Tim Seifert (6) and Dean Brownlie (0) were in the shed early, before a double rainbow signaled the resumption of a rain-reduced sixteen over a side match.
Daryl Mitchell (8) went dramatically for obstructing the field. Kyle Jamieson attempted to throw down the stumps while fielding his own bowling, for the TV umpire review to rule Mitchell had stuck his leg in the way of ball and send him on his way.
Corey Anderson (38) and Nick Kelly (56) made up for lost time with some huge hits into the stands and innovative laps and pulls to bring the run rate up to almost ten immediately. When they both went with a few overs to go, Mitchell Santner was able to rattle up 26 from 13 to help the Knights to 154-5.
Santner then got a luckless Tom Latham to chop on from the first ball of the innings - the Kings struggled early until Henry Nicholls and Chad Bowes took 15 from an Ish Sodhi over to get the chase back on track.
Momentum was lost momentarily when Bowes (24) then Cole McConchie (3) both fell to the b. Anderson, c. Seifert combo. Nicholls was rollicking along until Sodhi got his revenge, drawing a false shot to Daniel Flynn in the gully for 40, then picked up Andy Ellis for 12 in the 9th over.
Cam Fletcher (38*) and Leo Carter (21) formed a vital partnership with seven overs left to keep pace with the run rate, running hard and taking boundaries regularly. They looked to be on target before Kyle Abbott conceded just five from the 15th over with some fine death bowling.
The Kings needed 14 from the last to win it - Mitchell was thrown the ball for his first over, and claimed Carter's wicket and conceded no boundaries, to give the Knights a hard-fought win by just six runs.
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.