Brushing off the disappointment of surrendering the Plunket Shield to the Devon Hotel Central Stags just days ago, the SKYCITY Northern Knights turned the blowtorch on the new first-class champions when the two sides met again on the same strip to kick off the one-day Ford Trophy.
Batting first after the Stags had put them in, a sound team effort from the Knights' batting line-up in Nelson was highlighted by a 155-run partnership between young form batsman Daryl Mitchell and vastly experienced captain James Marshall.
The stand was an ND fourth-wicket one-day record against any side, beating a mark by former BLACKCAPS Adam Parore and Shane Thomson that had stood since the summer of 1996. While each plundered boundaries when they were there to hit, their hallmark was the sharp running of singles, leaving few dot balls in their wake as they ensured the Knights quickly recovered from a relatively demure start that had seen the loss of Anton Devcich and BLACKCAPS Daniel Flynn and Kane Williamson inside 18 overs.
Mitchell reached his maiden Ford Trophy half-century, then turned on the boosters to be within coee of a maiden century before suddenly lobbing a tired return catch to Stags captain Kieran Noema-Barnett on 95. Marshall had shadowed him, reaching 93 shortly after Mitchell's departure before Adam Milne (who would finish with 3-82, bowling with noticeably improved zip in his second spell) produced a textbook rip-snorter, the catch gleefully gobbled by Ross Taylor.
But with Southee and Brad Wilson (an unbeaten 29 off 12) adding quick runs at the end, the Knights surged past the 300-mark and on to 322/7 in their allotment, asking the Stags to score at better than run a ball. The task became all the harder for the home side as Trent Boult and Tim Southee then ripped out their top order, Boult in searing form as he took 3-21 in his opening spell, including the prized wickets of How and Sinclair for just one run between them.
By drinks the Stags were reeling at 61/5, a weight on Ross Taylor to rescue the Stags' hopes. Taylor had already been clumsily put down twice, but recovered to post 75 off 79 deliveries before the Knights finally held on to a chance on the boundary and, in so doing, thumped another nail into the coffin. Taylor's wicket was the 150th for Graeme Aldridge in Ford Trophy cricket, atonement for Aldridge given he had been one of the culprits earlier with the slippery hands.
Although Bracewell and van Wyk put up some useful late resistance, the Knights were in the box seat throughout, and when Boult trapped van Wyk lbw just after the keeper-batsman had raised his bat for a 50, the torrid young paceman signed off an 84-run victory with a personal-best Ford Trophy bowling return of 4-38 off 7.3 overs, backed up by 1-29 off seven from Southee and two late wickets from Boult's off-spinning brother Jono. The emphatic win secured the Knights a bonus point to see them take an early lead on the points table.