Rachna Shetty (ESPNcricinfo)
A calculated performance with the bat and ball helped Hobart Hurricanes rout Northern Knights by 86 runs in Raipur, keeping their chances of taking a knock-out spot alive.
While Knights’ decision to bowl first after winning the toss seemed to have provided them with an advantage – given their recent form and knowledge of conditions in Raipur – Hurricanes made it work in their favour with key contributions from Tim Paine, Aiden Blizzard and Shoaib Malik. Blizzard and Malik added 100 runs for the third wicket and combined the dexterity of their strokeplay with smart batting in dew-heavy conditions to propel Hurricanes to 178 for 3.
Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been one of the most successful new-ball pairs in the tournament so far. Prior to this game, the pair had 13 wickets between them at less than 10 runs apiece but the rest of the Knights bowling line-up had not quite matched them effectively.
Five overs into their innings, Hurricanes appeared to be in a rut but Paine switched gears dramatically once the threat of Southee and Boult had been dealt with and the likes of Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi and Jono Boult stepped in. Where the first five overs of the innings had seen the Hurricanes hobble to 20 for 1, the next five saw them accumulate 45 swift runs to quickly catch up with a healthy scoring rate.
Dew became an important factor as the game progressed and with the Knights bowlers struggling for grip and control, it became easier for Malik and Blizzard to build on Paine’s efforts.
As in the game against Cape Cobras, Aiden Blizzard was the lucky recipient of a reprieve, this time from Sodhi who failed to hold on to a caught-and-bowled chance. Blizzard was on 2 off 3 balls and he took his time settling into the partnership, allowing Malik to steer the innings initially. The second half of their century stand – which came off 50 balls – had Blizzard pulling out the shots, and he stormed to his fifth T20 fifty during an over in which he stroked five fours off Trent Boult. By the time Boult and Southee returned to the attack, towards the end of the innings, there was little they could do to stop Hurricanes from amassing 76 off the last five overs.
While Blizzard spent some time settling down at the crease, Malik kept the innings going with deft footwork and quick wrists. The batsman had had a disappointing run with Hurricanes, but the form that had made him one of the top run-getters in the recent Caribbean Premier League came to the fore as he carved boundaries square on either side of the wicket and in the third-man region.
Hurricanes’ bowling strategy paid off equally well as they opened the bowling with Ben Hilfenhaus and Joe Mennie. The ground staff in Raipur had worked hard to remove some of the dew during the innings break and it was imperative for Hurricanes to get the early wickets, to break into a middle order of a line-up that had been largely bolstered by the form of its top order. Mennie, in his third game for the side, provided the first breakthrough and he had some help from Ben Laughlin who pulled off an astonishing catch at point.
Then Hilfenhaus rattled the Knights chase, striking twice in an over to remove Kane Williamson – out playing a slog – and Daniel Flynn. A couple of overs later, BJ Watling missed a full toss and was adjudged lbw and despite Styris’ efforts at stitching together partnerships, the team couldn’t recover from a position of 19 for 4. Hilfenhaus finished with his best T20 figures of 3 for 14, while Mennie, Xavier Doherty and Doug Bollinger also chipped in with wickets. Styris became the second allrounder, after Kieron Pollard, to score more than 4000 runs and take more than 100 wickets in T20s during his 27-ball 37 and that perhaps was the brightest spark on an otherwise disappointing day for Knights.