Two of the leading three teams clashed in this key Plunket Shield showdown. Image courtesy of @CanterburyCrick twitter

Dramatic collapse kills Knights in crucial battle with Canterbury

Plunket Shield round seven: Canterbury 381 in 108.4 overs (Carter 81 on debut, Fulton 35, Broom 76, Nicholls 57, Ellis 30, Astle 36, McCone 38 not out; Baker 5-90, Aldridge 3-84) and 338/6 declared in 82.2 overs (McCone 36, Fulton 123 not out, Nicholls 61, Ellis 58; Baker 4-80) beat the SKYCITY Northern Knights 234 all out in 78.2 overs (Watling 63, Santner 32, Sodhi 48; Henry 3-46, Astle 3-50) and 184 all out in 72.3 overs (Santner 55, Flynn 62; Henry 4-29, Astle 3-22, Nuttall 2-49) by 301 runs at Hagley Oval, Christchurch

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DAY FOUR

Things started badly for the SKYCITY Northern Knights as Matt Henry quickly collected his fourth wicket: the big one of BLACKCAP BJ Watling, caught behind in the third over for just seven. That brought Knights captain (usually a top order exponent) Daniel Flynn belatedly to the crease with his team staring down the barrel at 55/6.

By lunch, the positive captain and competent young Mitchell Santner had shared an 84-run stand, recovering somewhat to 139/6. Another session picking away and they might dare hope for a draw. The partnership grew steadily to more than 100 runs, but bringing Todd Astle and Andy Ellis back into the attack proved a masterstroke for Peter Fulton.

The two senior pros struck twice in five balls between them, Ellis breaking the partnership by bowling Santner shortly after both he and Flynn had reached their respective half-centuries. Legspinner Astle followed suit and bowled Scott Kuggeleijn for a two-ball duck.

When Flynn himself fell just four overs later, having batted just over three hours with a dodgy hamstring for his 62, the vigil was over. Astle had struck again. Now it took Canterbury just a further four overs to wrap it up, the Knights' bowling standout Jimmy Baker suffering the ignominy of becoming Astle's final wicket.

The Knights had not only been bundled out for just 184, but surrendered their Plunket Shield leader's jersey to their opponents in the process — going down by a whopping 301 runs.

DAY THREE

The morning didn't start well for Canterbury, Jimmy Baker taking out Leo Carter caught behind on 26. In his follow-up over, Baker suddenly made it three quick wickets in four deliveries, putting himself on a hat-trick after getting nightwatchman Ryan McCone to nick one behind as well, for no addition to his useful overnight contribution of 36.

Then Neil Broom suffered a first-baller as he flicked a catch to Mitchell Santner: Baker was sitting on 3-9, to go with his first innings five-for.

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Henry Nicholls safely played away the hat-trick ball for two, but from 70/1 to 75/4 it had been a jarring start to the day for the hosts, even with a 220 lead. Nicholls was able to quickly knuckle down with Peter Fulton, however, taking himself to 41 by lunch, the Canterbury lead now 277 on what turned out to be a very solid afternoon for the hosts.

By the time Fulton took a boundary off Baker to post the Canterbury 200, that lead had been extended to 347. Nicholls had departed, Baker's fourth victim of the day and ninth for the match after being bowled on 61.

Now the captain and Andy Ellis were motoring in a sixth-wicket stand that was worth 42 by drinks, boundaries starting to flow.

Fulton brought up his half-century with a single off Mitchell Santner as they looked to build a good buffer against a side few would expect to crumble twice. The Canterbury captain went to tea on 99, Ellis having just reached his 65-ball half-century with a boundary off Ish Sodhi before the break.

Their lead had swelled to 436. Fulton powered on to his 17th first-class century — his second in as many Plunket Shield matches, but he lost his lieutenant shortly after as Sodhi picked up his first of the match, Ellis trapped in front on 58.

They had poured on 140 for the sixth wicket, and when Fulton declared at 338/6 it set the Knights a formidable target of 485, denying Jimmy Baker any further chances to pick up a 10th for the match in the process.

The Knights promoted Anton Devcich to open the reply in place of the indisposed Daniel Flynn (hamstring niggle), but it didn't pay off as the Hamiltonian was the first to fall, offering a slip catch off Matt Henry.

The day was about to get even better for Canterbury. The Knights' 18/1 became 44/5 as a dramatic collapse late in the afternoon suddenly had the visitors in a desperate position.

Dangerous Dean Brownlie (who likewise edged to Fulton at slip) and Daryl Mitchell were both back in the shed for just 11 runs each, and Joe Carter's tough ride had continued as his leg stump went cartwheeling: a two-for to both Henry and first change Ed Nuttall.

The Knights' situation deteriorated even further when Henry delivered his second wicket maiden in succession, this time taking out nightwatchman Ish Sodhi for no score: 44/5.

The Knights were falling apart under the weight of a mammoth task, against sustained pressure. At stumps they were 48/5, still trailing by a daunting 438, BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner both new at the crease. Henry had taken 3-15 off just eight overs, Canterbury poised for the kill on the final day.

DAY TWO

SKYCITY Northern Knights seamer Jimmy Baker made a good start to the morning by collecting his second first-class career five-wicket bag, pushing Canterbury to nine down with the wickets of former teammate Cameron Fletcher and Matt Henry in successive overs.

Tailenders Ryan McCone and Ed Nuttall fancied a few more runs, however, and put on 43 quick runs for the last wicket — McCone finding the boundary five times, as well as lofting a six, in his unbeaten 38 before Graeme Aldridge had his batting partner caught to end the Canterbury innings on 381 and pick up his 350th first-class wicket.

Henry then struck big early blows in reply, a double wicket maiden in just his second over taking out both Dean Brownlie and Joe Carter. Brownlie for once had paid for making an aggressive start, while for young Carter it was a duck to compound his second season blues.

Adding to the Knights' discomfort was a third wicket before lunch as Daryl Mitchell departed caught behind for 15. Then his replacement Anton Devcich fell shortly after the resumption, bowled by Andy Ellis: 56/3 had just become 56/4.

That left experienced campaigners Daniel Flynn and BJ Watling to "steady the ship". But the red and blacks struck yet again: 56/4 now became 56/5, Ed Nuttall sitting on figures of 2-6 after taking out Flynn, caught on 23 by Matt Henry — the Knights up against it with half their batsmen gone already and still trailing by over 300 runs.

By tea, the Knights were six down for just 118, having lost Mitchell Santner after a 62-run stand with Watling was brought to a close by Henry's third strike. Unbeaten on 31, Watling battled on beyond the break with Scott Kuggeleijn, then a breezy Ish Sodhi, as he soldiered to his half century.

Sodhi narrowly missed a half century of his own, but more importantly for the Knights they narrowly avoided the follow on when Todd Astle wrapped up their uneasy innings on 234.

By stumps, Canterbury had a 161-run lead with nine in hand, having lost Ronnie Hira cheaply for the second time in the match.

DAY ONE

Twenty-year-old Leo Carter was quickly into his work as he made his Plunket Shield and first-class debut for Canterbury after the Knights sent their hosts in on a fine Christchurch morning.

The son of former Canterbury coach Bob Carter started his first-class career well, totting up his maiden half century before lunch to be unbeaten on 64 — having lost his more experienced partners in the session, Ronnie Hira trapped early by Knights veteran Graeme Aldridge and captain Peter Fulton, for 35, caught off Jimmy Baker by BLACKCAP Ish Sodhi on his return from injury.

Canterbury were 110/2 at the pause and, pressing on to 81, top scorer Carter was looking good for a ton on debut — until falling caught behind first ball after drinks in the middle session, to a delighted Scott Kuggeleijn.

Neil Broom, on 41 at the time, was then joined by form horse Henry Nicholls and the pair carried Canterbury through to a strong position at tea, without further loss.

The final session was a productive one for Canterbury with the old firm of Ellis & Astle quickly capitalising after both Broom and Nicholls had chalked up half-tons. By stumps, the hosts were 325/7 after the allrounders had both fallen in the last overs of the day.

Leo Carter bowling for the New Zealand Under-19s last year

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