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The wait for the final four to be finalized in the ongoing Burger King Super Smash is likely to be dragged into the final week of the round-robin stage courtesy of tight competition for the third and fourth positions. There are six games yet to be played before the knockouts and not many in those are going to be dead-rubbers. Auckland Aces and Northern Knights are set to meet at Auckland on 2nd February. Even though the battle between them is not going to impact the qualification scenarios of the tournament in any way, both the sides will want to register a win and take the confidence into the knockouts. The top of the table clashes are usually thrilling contests and we do not expect this one to be any lesser.
After getting off to a rather sedate start in the Super Smash, Auckland Aces have really pushed their way up the table in the last few matches. They are currently placed at third place with four wins in eight matches and are looking well set to make it to the top four. A win, however, will push them a step closer to ascertaining a home semifinal which is what they'll be aiming for.
They are coming into this game with three back to back wins behind them with the more recent one being against Canterbury Kings. Bowling first on a decent enough surface, their bowlers started off in a brilliant fashion as Quinn got rid of MacRury in the first over of the match. He followed it up with another wicket in only the third over of the match. Mitchell McClenaghan assisted him wonderfully during the opening burst as he dismissed Bowes to rock Kings. The Kings could never recover from a shaky start and eventually folded for 122.
On smallish New Zealand grounds and quick outfield, a total of 122 rarely stifles the team chasing. It wasn't any different for Aces as they overhauled the chase with more than two overs to spare and nine wickets in hand. Daniel Bell Drummond remained not out till the very end and scored 51 off 47 deliveries. It could very well have been a ten-wicket win had Glenn Phillips not got out in a quest to finish things early. He was dismissed for 59 when the Aces were just ten runs away from the target.
Daniel Bell-Drummond, Colin Munro, GD Phillips, Mark Chapman, Craig Cachopa, Robert O'Donnell, Donovan Grobbelaar, Ronnie Hira, W Somerville, MJ Mcclenaghan, Matthew Quinn.
Seldom do we see a team being as dominant as Northern Knights have been in the tournament so far. Barring one bad day, against Central Stags, Northern Knights have always been on their toes - ready to pounce on any opportunity they've been presented with.
Northern Knights last faced a defeat more than a month ago, on 27th December, and have been on a rampage since them. Between then and now, they've emerged on top of six occasions. There was an utter display of class and domination in their last match where they defeated Central Districts by a massive margin on 131 runs.
Batting first on a smallish ground and batting beauty, Nick Kelly missed out on an opportunity to play a big knock as he was dismissed without troubling the scorers. Tim Seifert and Dean Brownlie steadied the ship thereafter and pushed their total to 71 before Seifert departed. Skipper Brownlie followed him soon after, but what followed that does not happen too often. Brent Hampton and Daryll Mitchel stuck Stags to all parts of the park and their 98 runs partnership for the fourth wicket took just 5.4 overs. Mitchell fell for 61 off 23 deliveries in the last over after doing way more than what he was asked to.
Their bowlers didn't really have any trouble whatsoever in defending the total. With wickets towards the start of the second innings, middle of the innings, and towards the end, they were comfortably defeated by Northern Knights.
Tim Seifert, Nick Kelly, Dean Brownlie, Brett Hampton, Daryl Mitchell, Corey Anderson, Scott Kuggeleijn, KY Abbott, N Wagner, IS Sodhi, Peter Bocock.
Just a day ago, the Aces were sitting pretty at the second spot in the points table. A win for Central Districts against Wellington Firebirds pushed them to the third spot. Both Knights and Aces are coming into this game with plenty of momentum behind them. Considering only the form of the two sides, it's hard to choose between the sides. Northern Knights have been a better team in the tournament thus far and we're victorious when these two teams met for the last time in the tournament which makes them a little better placed to emerge on top in the upcoming encounter.
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