Imports star as Knights win T20 season opener

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 22:15 02/11/2012
Steven Croft
Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
BIG HITTING: Steven Croft on his way 81 off 49 balls on debut for the Northern Knights.

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How important are Twenty20 imports? Ask the Northern Knights.

English duo Steven Croft and James Foster combined to firstly resuscitate and then electrify the home side to a 24-run victory in the opening match of the HRV Cup season in Hamilton.

Croft blasted 81 off 49 balls and Foster adroitly added 48 off 30 deliveries to lift the faltering Knights to 174-7 batting first against the Otago Volts.

The imports put on 126 in 12.1 overs for the fifth wicket in one of the most prolific and damaging partnerships seen in the domestic Twenty20 competition's history when Otago were well on top.

As first impressions go, it was a memorable introduction for Lancashire's player of the year Croft and current Essex and former England keeper Foster, who was the English county MVP in their domestic Twenty20 competition this year.

Knights captain Scott Styris won the toss and chose to bat in overcast conditions under lights at Seddon Park but his side stumbled badly in the initial stages, falling to 42-4.

The visitors opened the bowling with off-spinner Mark Craig and he appeared unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Daniel Flynn to the first ball Flynn faced when struck on the pads.

However, Flynn perished in the next over, chopping on to young paceman Jacob Duffy in the second over.

Otago skipper Derek de Boorder regularly switched his bowlers, using six different options in the first six overs.

The Knights looked to be making progress when Brad Wilson took to Jimmy Neesham in the fifth over but Neesham gained quick revenge by forcing Wilson to chop a slower ball onto his pads and then onto his stumps.

Anton Devcich was another of the hosts' batsmen to perish softly when run out going for a suicidal second after almost being caught, and when Styris was caught behind first ball off teen tyro Duffy the Knights were in deep trouble in the eighth over.

That's when Croft and Foster came together and displayed poise and nous to turn things around, smartly and sedately at first and then with pace and power.

Croft included six fours and four sixes in his blistering knock while Foster added five fours and a six while often finding the gaps in the field.

De Boorder erred when bringing on part-time spinner Neil Broom for the 16th over, as Croft and Foster pillaged 23 off the over and then they also took to Neil Wagner as runs mounted rapidly.

Otago's reply also started poorly, losing Aaron Redmond and Michael Bracewell in Devcich's first two overs.

Hamish Rutherford (47) and Broom (33) endeavoured to chase down the daunting tally but to no avail as the Knights bowled tightly and fielded well.

The two sides meet again at the same venue tomorrow when they start their four-day Plunket Shield match.

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- Fairfax Media

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