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After a long and hard tussle lasting for around a couple of months, we are finally just a game away from the final showdown in Burger King Super Smash. Central Stags thumped Auckland Aces in the preliminary final to set up the decider against Northern Knights. The grand finale of the tournament will be played at Seddon Park, Hamilton on 17th February. Northern Knights made their direct entry into the final of the tournament by finishing first in the points table. However, they are coming into this game on the back of a couple of back-to-back defeats which might be playing on their mind. Having said that, that could very well act as a balancing factor making the upcoming encounter the perfect candidate to provide this tournament with a fitting finish.
The Knights have a large contingent of players playing for New Zealand which kept those eight players in and out of the teams' lineup over the course of round-robin stage. With New Zealand no longer having any limited overs fixture clashing in with Super Smash, those players will walk back into the side.
The full-strength Knights squad will have Daryll Mitchell, Tim Southee, Tim Seifert, Scott Kuggeleijn, and Mitchell Santner back into the squad which will without a doubt boost the chances of Knights defending the title. Tim Seifert impressed one and all with his short yet dynamic stint against India not long ago.
Daryl Mitchell shrugged off his disappointed first couple of appearances in the same series with an all-around effort in the final match where the Kiwis just managed to sneak in a win. With Sodhi and Santner back as well, the Knights certainly aren't short on talent as far as the spin department is concerned. Neil Wagner is likely to make way for Tim Southee which kind of speakers volumes about the options Knights have.
Tim Seifert, Nick Kelly, Dean Brownlie, Daryl Mitchell, Corey Anderson, Mitchell Santner, Daniel Flynn, Scott Kuggeleijn, KY Abbott, TG Southee, IS Sodhi.
Similar to Knights, the Stags will also have a couple of their star players returning to the mix. The most important return could be of Blair Tickner, the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, who did reasonably well in his debut against India. However, it is uncertain as he is still nursing an injury which he sustained a few days ago.
Dane Cleaver combined well with Young in their previous encounter and posted a partnership which single-handedly dismissed Auckland Aces out of the contest. With Doug Bracewell available at number six, they have availability of batting-power right through the lineup without compromising in the bowling department.
Regardless of how their batsmen did at Auckland, Central Stags have been found guilty of collapsing under pressure many times over the course of the competition. Not long ago, the Knights reduced Stags to an under-par total which is something they'd need to be wary of. All in all, the Stags have a powerful batting lineup and a bowling attack with variety, but consistency will be a key concern for them. If they can perform up to their potential, Northern Knights will have their work cut out.
Will Young, George Worker, Dean Foxcroft, Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver, Doug Bracewell, KN Barnett, Adam Milne, Seth Rance, Ajaz Patel, Blair Tickner.
The Knights will be looking to repeat their success of 2017-18 final where they thumped Stags to lift the coveted trophy. The Stags, on the other hand, will be looking to avenge their defeat, but that is not going to be easy against the full-strength Knights' team. The Knights will be boosted by the return of Kiwi stars and with a terrific record at Hamilton and against the Stags, they are more likely to win the upcoming contest and keep their crown of Kiwi T20 champions.