Defending champs crushed by Wizards

Canterbury Wizards legspinner Todd Astle delivered a rapid execution to the Northern Knights this morning, who slumped to an embarrassing innings loss in a Plunket Shield cricket match at Whangarei.

Umpires lifted the bails at Cobham Oval just half an hour after the third day began as Astle claimed five of the six wickets to fall for just 21 runs, the defending champions' middle and lower order displaying an inept technique against spin.

Resuming at 72 for four -- still 155 runs short of making the Wizards bat again -- the Knights' second innings lasted less than seven overs.

The win by an innings and 114 runs bore similarities to the last time the Knights hosted the Wizards, the 10-wicket loss in Hamilton last summer one of their few low points in a dominant domestic campaign.

The rot set in from the second ball of the day when Astle when had debutant Keir Bettley trapped in front.

One ball later Jono Boult was caught and bowled as the 24-year-old spinner began a dream spell of five for 14 off 3.5 overs. His career-best figures of six for 28 took him to 15 scalps this season at an average of 21.

Astle removed Joseph Yovich for an innings-high 25 before bowling the last pair. The only other wicket today was claimed by Australian pace bowler Mitchell Claydon, who snared six victims in the match to mark a fine Wizards debut.

The Wizards dominated the match from the outset, with opener Rob Nicol's 101 a standout in their only innings which ended late yesterday at 326, something the hosts never came close to matching in digs of 119 and 93.

Day 2: Wizards all over Knights

It will take a cricket miracle for the Northern Knights to avoid a hefty defeat to the Canterbury Wizards in their Plunket Shield four-day cricket match at Whangarei.

The Knights still trail the Wizards by 135 runs with only six wickets in hand after they slumped to 72 for four in their second dig at stumps on the second day.

The Wizards, who had started the day at 110 for one and trailing the home team's paltry first innings total by just nine runs, were eventually dismissed for 326 today, an innings highlighted by opener Rob Nicol's ninth first-class hundred.

His knock ended at 101 but fine contributions from No 6 Tom Latham (53) and legspinner Todd Astle, who added an unbeaten 44, ensured the visitors were able to post a significant first innings lead of 207.

The Knights could not have made a worse start to their second innings with their top four batsmen, including the experienced pair of Michael Parlane and skipper James Marshall, all back in the pavilion before the team total had reached 50.

Debutant Keir Bettley (18 not out) and allrounder Joseph Yovich (19 not out) will be tasked with batting well into tomorrow just to see the match into its final day.

Earlier, Bettley completed a memorable first stint at the bowling crease in first class cricket, taking two wickets in his first over. He finished with two for 22.

Bradley Scott was the best of the Knights bowlers with three for 55.

Day 1: Wizards in complete control

The Canterbury Wizards enjoyed a near perfect day as they took an early stranglehold on their Plunket Shield four-day cricket match against the Northern Knights at Whangarei today.

The Wizards won the toss and bowled, only to find themselves at the crease just 58.1 overs and 119 runs later.

Their top order has gone about knocking off the Knights' paltry total in positive fashion and they ended the first day at 110 for one, just nine runs short of popping the two first-innings points in their luggage.

The Knights, the defending champions who had enjoyed an outright win and first innings win in the first two rounds, capitulated after a solid enough start. They were 62 for two just before lunch but lost two quick wickets before the interval and the post-lunch session was fatal.

They lost their final eight wickets for 57 runs as opening bowler Mitchell Claydon and allrounder Andrew Ellis took three wickets each.

Wizards coach Bob Carter rushed Claydon into the team after signing him at the weekend for the Wizards' Twenty20 campaign, and the Australia-raised 28-year-old, who took advantage of a British passport to initially align with Yorkshire in 2005 before spending the past three seasons with Durham, did not disappoint, finishing with three for 25 from 13.1 overs.

Ellis was miserly as well as lethal, taking three for 17 from 13 overs.

Anton Devcich (37), James Marshall (31) and Brad Wilson (19) were the only Knights players to reach double figures.

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