Early setback for Stags

Triumphant: Stags player Tarun Nethula celebrates the wicket of Northern Knights’ Daniel Flynn.
Triumphant: Stags player Tarun Nethula celebrates the wicket of Northern Knights’ Daniel Flynn.

Ross Taylor and Kruger van Wyk counterpunched like there was hope but the Central Stags ultimately had no answer to the Northern Knights at Nelson's Saxton Oval yesterday.

The Knights eventually cruised to an 84-run first round Ford Trophy victory to put a sobering early crimp in the Stags' one-day cricket title defence.

Just three days after securing this season's four-day Plunket Shield title, the Stags' limited overs curse has returned.

After finishing dead last in this season's Twenty20 series, they tripped up once again in the game's other abbreviated form yesterday in the face of a concerted Knights effort.

A record 155-run fourth-wicket partnership between Daryl Mitchell and James Marshall and an impressive early display of swing bowling by Trent Boult provided the substance to a convincing Knights performance.

Not even an entertaining 75-run innings from Stags' batsman Ross Taylor, as part of a 70-run sixth wicket partnership with van Wyk, and an eventual half century by the South African-born former New Zealand wicketkeeper could alter the final outcome as the Stags could only muster 238 in reply to the Knights massive total of 322 for seven.

Mitchell and Marshall's record stand dominated the Knights' innings, the pair coming together at 95 for three in the 18th over to plunder the Stags' bowling.

Anton Devcich (21), Daniel Flynn (25) and Kane Williamson (26) had each previously made starts, but it was Mitchell and Marshall who cashed in on a good batting strip as they immediately began to increase the run rate.

Mitchell brought up his 50 with a boundary to fine leg off 57 balls, including five fours and a six over wide long on, with Marshall's half century coming even more quickly off just 45 balls and also including five fours.

But just five runs short of what would have been a maiden one-day century, Mitchell played a ball straight back to bowler Kieran Noema-Barnett to break their record stand at 250 for four in the 43rd over. Mitchell's innings lasted 92 balls and included nine fours and two sixes.

Marshall added a further 35 runs with Tim Southee for the fifth wicket before Marshall also went just shy of his ton, lobbing Adam Milne to Taylor at extra cover for 93 at 285 for five in the 47th over. Marshall faced just 83 balls and hit eight boundaries.

It sparked an excellent spell by Milne, returning in his third bowling spell after early punishment, to take three wickets in eight deliveries, including Southee for 23 and Jono Boult for a first-ball duck.

After conceding 55 runs off seven wicketless overs, Milne finished with three for 82 as the Stags' leading wicket taker.

A belligerent Brad Wilson smashed 18 runs off the final over to help take the score through to 322 for seven, Wilson finishing unbeaten on 29 off 12 balls.

The Stags' reply began disastrously when international bowler Trent Boult had both opening batsman Jamie How (1) and Mat Sinclair (0) back in the pavilion within four deliveries at five for two. And when Devcich held a blistering diving catch at midwicket to dismiss Jeet Raval for three off Southee at 14 for three off six overs, the Stags were in trouble.

With Taylor the main protagonist, left-arm spinner Devcich at one stage conceded a staggering 44 runs off two consecutive overs which, despite wickets tumbling at the other end, helped to keep the Stags up with the required run rate.

Devcich had his revenge, holding the catch off Graeme Aldridge to finally end Taylor's assault at 131 for six, gone for 75 off 79 balls, having hit five fours and five sixes and his final 41 runs coming off just 14 deliveries.

Van Wyk and Doug Bracewell (30) continued the fightback with a 54-run seventh wicket stand, although ultimately in vain as the Stags were dismissed in the 39th over when van Wyk finally went lbw for a defiant 51.

His gritty stand lasted 61 balls, including just three fours and six.

The Stags now head to Wellington for tomorrow's second-round match against the Firebirds before returning to Nelson for round three against the Canterbury Wizards on Sunday.