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Amidst the tension-filled and intriguing test match battles going on, the T20 carnival is slowly and steadily gaining interest. Women's Big Bash League started a while ago and Men's edition of the same tournament brought about a couple of new innovations with it. We now have Burger King Super Smash, New Zealand's premier T20 competition which is set to begin on 22nd December with Northern Knights, the defending Champions, taking on Wellington Firebirds. The Firebirds won the title back in 2016-17 season and with two former champion teams set to start, a thrilling encounter is certainly on the cards at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
The Knights have a strong batting lineup consisting of experienced players in Anton Devcich and Tim Seifert. Joe Carter has been excellent in all the domestic competition prior to Super Smash. He's averaging 53 in Plunkett Shield and scored at an average of 123 in Ford Trophy. The team management will be looking up to him to put up a similar sort of performance, if not better.
The biggest setback for the Knights will be the unavailability of their star players in Kane Williamson, Colin de Grandhomme, Trent Boult, and a couple of other Kiwi players who are out on national duty as New Zealand is hosting Sri Lanka.
Anton Devcich was the highest run-getter in the last season and he is expected to play a crucial role yet again. His bowling skills may come in handy as well considering Firebirds' relative unease of playing against spinners. Brent Arnell and Chris Jordan are likely to start the proceedings with the ball. Overall, the Knights are a well-rounded side who definitely start as one of the favorites to lift the trophy.
Tim Seifert, Anton Devcich, Daniel Flynn, Dean Brownlie, Brett Hampton, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Peter Bocock, Scott Kuggeleijn, IS Sodhi, Brett Randell.
With the likes of Luke Ronchi, Tom Blundell, and Hamish Marshall available, the Firebirds' top-order is certainly not short on experience. The 37-year old swash-buckling wicket-keeper batsman, Luke Ronchi, has played over 200 T20s across the globe in his career and is regarded as one of the most destructive Kiwi batsmen. He was one of Firebirds' most consistent batsman last year and will be looking to add value to his team yet again.
Although its been quite some time since the two teams met, Hamish Marshall will draw confidence from his 48-run knock against the Knights. Alongside him, Tom Blundell will is expected to play a vital role with the bat.
Bowling-wise, the Firebirds will mainly rely on the experience of Jeetan Patel and skipper Hamish Bennett. Jeetan Patel, being the only experienced spin option, will be a major threat this time as well. Their bowling attack appears to be a little inexperienced on paper and it will be interesting to see how Hamish Bennett uses himself and the other bowlers against the powerful lineup of Northern Knights.
Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway, Adam Hose, James Neesham, TA Blundell, Michael Pollard, Malcolm Nofal, Hamish Bennett, Luke Woodcock, Jeetan Patel, Ollie Newton.
Although the two teams appear to be well-matched on paper, the numbers tell a different story. Head to head, the Knights are marginally ahead as they've won 13 out of 23 matches played between the two. Also, the Knights haven't lost any of their last five T20 games whereas the Firebirds emerged second-best in three of their last five matches. Northern Knights are playing at their home ground and have a well-rounded and balanced team which makes them better placed to edge Firebirds in the opening encounter of the Burger King Super Smash 2018.
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