Plunket Shield round eight: SKYCITY Northern Knights 464/8 declared in 117.3 overs (Brownlie 128, Wilson 165, Carter 34, Devcich 62, Mitchell 50; Phillips 4-98 on debut, Jacob Duffy 3-129) and 231/9 in 67 overs (Devcich 123, Santner 31; Jacob Duffy 6-83) beat the SBS Bank Otago Volts 363 all out in 107.3 overs (Redmond 29, Rutherford 54, Bracewell 50, Ryan Duffy 33, Ryder 92, Smith 70; Aldridge 3-66, Baker 3-52) and 306 all out in 84.4 overs (Ryan Duffy 55, de Boorder 43, Finnie maiden 77; Aldridge 5-57) by 49 runs at Seddon Park, Hamilton
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Nine down, the SKYCITY Northern Knights elected to continue batting on the fourth morning with overnight centurion Anton Devcich helping himself to a couple more boundaries and a six off Ryan Phillips en route to a first-class career best of 123 off 141 balls.
Jimmy Baker provided support for 15 minutes and the pair added 23 runs until Jacob Duffy ended the Knights' tally on 254, setting the SBS Bank Otago Volts a chase of 355 at a required run rate of just under four for the outright that would keep the winner in touch with Canterbury on the points table. Devcich had been Duffy's last victim, the Aaron Redmond catch presenting the young bowler with his first bag of six.
Graeme Aldridge quickly continued causing trouble for the Volts, making a breakthrough in just the third over of the chase when he got Hamish Rutherford caught behind: 5/1.
His partner in the opening attack was spinner Jono Boult, Watling looking for the best of both worlds. After Aaron Redmond and Michael Bracewell began to take the bat to the opening duo, BJ Watling swapped them for James Baker and Mitchell Santner, seamer Baker almost immediately getting results with the wicket of Bracewell.
The shuffle of spin/seam continued with Ish Sodhi introduced before lunch as the Knights hunted for a clear advantage, Redmond and Ryan Duffy picking away to reduce the target to under 300.
But just as the Volts looked to have grasped back some dogged control of the first session, Sodhi went up for a leg-before appeal against the Volts skipper. Redmond was not impressed as he found himself traipsing back to the grandstand shortly before the break, the Volts 60/3 with another 296 yet to find.
Both sides kept fighting hard for that much-wanted outright through the middle session, the Volts putting on 159 at a good clip before tea to reduce the equation to 137 runs. Only problem was that they had lost four more big wickets in the interim, including the game Craig Smith, cheaply, just two overs before the break.
Duffy (55), Jesse Ryder (25 off 32) and Derek de Boorder (43 off 50) had all contributed to the Volts' cause but, thanks to timely breakthroughs — Aldridge taking two key wickets in the space of two overs, missing was an anchorman around whom the Volts could plot their charge.
The Volts on the knife edge, it left much on the shoulders of young Josh Finnie, unbeaten on 36 at tea, having done more than fend off the relentless Northern spin contingent with seven boundaries and a six.
Ryan Phillips got the last session and his own innings underway with a six off Sodhi. The Volts were not stepping back from the challenge. Eighteen-year-old Finnie took his cue and lofted Devcich for a six of his own (his second), to lodge his maiden first-class 50 off 66 balls. Now they needed fewer than 100 runs. Was a fairy tale finish in store?
Phillips trucked confidently for a big 29 before James Baker got his poles. Now the Volts needed 80, with just one man left padded up, Finnie batting beyond his years on 60. The youngster took back to back boundaries off Mitchell Santner to ease the tension and by drinks had reached 73, operating at a strike rate close to 80. He had just posted the Volts' 300 with yet another boundary when the fairy tale was popped by Aldridge, and Watling, who gloved the catch behind the stumps to send the disappointed teen on his way for a hugely impressive 77 off 99 balls.
At 306/9, the last pair were left with an assignment of 56 runs. But they could find only six of them before the maestro Aldridge finished off the job, taking his fifth wicket for a matchwinning 5-57 and 14th career five-for. The Knights had kept their Plunket Shield hopes alive, just.
Anton Devcich had played his entire Plunket Shield career, 32 matches, without scoring a first-class century for the SKYCITY Northern Knights. Until today. And, it couldn't have come at a better time for his teammates, after the Knights followed up their monumental first innings with a scratchy reply to the Volts' 363.
Earlier, SBS Bank Otago Volts powerhouse Jesse Ryder narrowly dipped out on a ton of his own after top-scoring for the Volts with 92. Graeme Aldridge had been a handful for both Ryder and Craig Smith, but it would be his understudy Jimmy Baker who was rewarded with Ryder's prize wicket, after Jono Boult dove at mid-on to ensure the catch.
Collectively the Knights made short work of the rest of the line-up — with the notable exception of Smith, who soldiered on for a patient, invaluable 70 (his maiden half-century) before Ish Sodhi finally wrapped up the innings before lunch with his wicket.
The Volts had allowed the Knights a 101-run lead on the first innings, but they were about get back into the game with bells on, thanks to Jacob Duffy going from no five-fors in his entire career to two in the space of two games
It started when he got first innings destroyer Dean Brownlie to edge one to slip, then Joe Carter was caught at cover: 29/2. Smith helped out by yorking Brad Wilson to have the hosts 55/3 at drinks.
Drinks didn't help them much as Duffy claimed his third in Daryl Mitchell soon after, lbw: 56/4. Enter Anton Devcich. By tea he had got his team to the verge of its 100, for a lead of nearly 200. After the cuppa he posted his second half-century of the match from 76 balls — a good clip by first-class standards, but almost pedestrian compared to the heights he had reached in the first innings. He even had the cheek to take 14 runs off one Duffy over, but with the wickets falling around him the real danger to his aspirations lay at the opposite end.
A full decade had passed since Devcich made his first-class debut for the Knights, the only team the Hamiltonian has ever represented in the Plunket Shield. He had scored a sole, maiden first-class ton for New Zealand A, and represented the BLACKCAPS, yet in all that time hadn't outdone the unbeaten 94 he made as a teenager on debut in the maroon and gold cap, remarkably from nine in the order at Gisborne's Harry Barker Reserve.
This time, even losing two tailend partners while he was in the nineties could not stop the instinctively attacking batsman. Devcich was unbeaten at day's end on 105, the Knights nine down for a lead of 332 heading into the final day.
A blistering charge to bag maximum batting points and a four-for of big wickets for a Volts newbie were the highlights of an entertaining second morning at Seddon Park.
After Brad Wilson was finally, after 398 minutes, sent back to the sheds with a career-best 165 — falling to a Duffy brothers special with Jacob doing the bowling and Ryan taking the catch, Anton Devcich provided a rollicking show at five as he and Daryl Mitchell strategically turned up the gas for four overs. They were after maximum batting points inside the 110-overs cut-off mark, and got there with 11 balls to spare, having slaughtered 63 runs from 39 balls to tick off the Knights' 400.
Devcich kept it going, racing to a half-ton off 30 balls — the third-fastest Northern Knights fifty in first-class history, no less, and the fastest by anyone in all the years at Seddon Park.
But his nemesis turned out to be young leggie Ryan Phillips, freshly plucked out of Dunedin club scene and Otago A side, who claimed the aggressive BLACKCAP as his maiden first-class wicket, caught for a memorable 62 by Jacob Duffy at square leg.
Phillips shaped up as a giant-killer, following up quickly with the prize wicket of Watling, then wunderkind Mitchell Santner to boot, both with just six runs to their credit. Then he added BLACKCAPS leggie Ish Sodhi en route to a noteworthy 4-98 on debut, reward for his sweat and toil through much of the previous day.
Daryl Mitchell had meanwhile chimed in with a 65-ball 50 and after the flurry of lower order wickets, BJ Watling opted to declare in time to give his bowlers nine overs at Aaron Redmond and Hamish Rutherford before lunch, bringing on Sodhi after just four overs on a surface that had been forecast to turn. The Knights had settled for 464/8, and headed back in for a second time with the Volts off to a flyer in response at 44/0.
Coming off nine wickets in the previously round, it was seamer Jimmy Baker who eventually made the initial breakthrough by claiming Redmond on 29 early in the middle session, while senior paceman Graeme Aldridge will be sending Joe Carter a Christmas card after the young man made a scorching catch stick to dismiss Rutherford, just after the opener had racked up a 55-ball half century: both Volts frontmen gone all of a sudden, 96/2.
There was no further loss before tea, however, Michael Bracewell (38*) and Ryan Duffy (23*) taking the tally to 147/2 with their unbroken 54-run stand. Bracewell took himself to a half-century in exactly two hours after the resumption, but could not progress as spinner Jono Boult got him caught.
While runs had not been overly tough to come by, none of the Volts had kicked on by stumps, the visitors six down after Aldridge had picked up two quick wickets in the last session. The southern hopes appeared to rest with Jesse Ryder, unbeaten on 68 off 57 balls (including two sixes) at day's end, sharing a 42-run stand with Craig Smith and trailing by 187.
The SKYCITY Northern Knights' return to their Seddon Park HQ got off to an unusual start. When the players went in for lunch on Day One, lunch wasn't ready — so both teams returned to the field to continue a lengthy opening session, extended by some 45 minutes or so to 1.40pm.
Rumbling tummies aside, it was an ideal one for the Knights. Captain BJ Watling (filling in once again this season for Daniel Flynn, who had injured his hamstring in the previous round) had won the toss and was delighted to sit back and watch Dean Brownlie (80* off 143 at the break) and Brad Wilson (69* off 153) power through undefeated to the eventual lunch break, the Knights' 150 posted on the board just before the feed was finally ready.
Their stand had just broken the Knights' all-time first wicket record against the SBS Bank Volts (previously held by Geoff Howarth and Rod Fulton, dating all the way back to the 1974/75 season) and, in the process, Wilson had pushed past his own 4000 first-class runs milestone.
Brownlie delivered his 10th first-class century after lunch, clocking it up with his 13th boundary, off Craig Smith. He added another for good measure in the same over, his partner Wilson on 70 as they started contemplating an unprecedented 200 opening stand for their side.
It was a batsman's deck — the block having just hosted its final Cricket World Cup match, although likely to turn with wear. That said, epic scores are not achieved without stamina and the sustained ability to make good decisions. Shortly before 3pm, that time of day when you'd really like the 12th man to run out a coffee, the Knights' 200 clicked over on the board without any loss.
While changes had been forced upon the Knights from the previous round, the Volts had also needed to rejig. They brought in leg-spinning debutant Rhys Phillips — providing a new spin option with Mark Craig already out injured (knee) and pace ace Neil Wagner being rested after a heavy season workload.
Phillips was in for a long day first day on the job, and it was Smith who picked up the satisfaction of finally dismissing Brownlie on 128 in the middle session. The powerhouse, boundary-strewn opening stand had ended at 214 as Michael Bracewell gratefully took the catch, having watched the show for just a shade over four hours.
Wilson's style was less showy — hitting boundaries with barely a flourish, but solid and dependable. He coasted on and brought up his eighth Plunket Shield century for the Knights in the same session, cracking his 16th four to do so, off Jacob Duffy.
The hosts were sitting pretty at 253/1 at tea, Wilson unbeaten on 115. In the final session of a thoroughly bat-dominated day, the recalled Northlander marched on to his career-best score (his previous having been 151), undefeated at stumps having batted all day — almost seven hours — for his 156.
The Knights were on top at 327/2 when the umpires lifted the bails and the Volts' attack was surely shot-tired. The only other wicket to fall had been that of Joe Carter, caught off Duffy just five overs before stumps after sharing a 100-stand with Wilson at first drop, Daryl Mitchell seeing out the close of the day.