High-flying Knights lose momentum in New Plymouth
The Northern Knights' ride at the top of the HRV Cup table hit a pothole in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The Knights were soundly beaten by 43 runs by the previously win-less Central Stags, allowing the Wellington Firebirds to draw level with the Knights at the top of the domestic Twenty20 competition after six matches.
"We came up against a very determined CD side that knows that ground very well and outplayed us in a number of areas," admitted Knights coach Grant Bradburn.
The Knights won the toss under skipper Scott Styris, who decided his side would chase what was always likely to be a big tally on the ground noted for its short square boundaries.
A second-wicket partnership of 111 from veteran Mathew Sinclair and young tyro Will Young formed the basis of the hosts' 186 for four off their 20 overs and the Knights were rarely in contention before being dismissed for 143 with seven balls remaining.
Styris was the only bright light with the bat, backing up his blazing winning knock against Auckland on Boxing Day with 77 off 47 balls, including five sixes and six fours.
"We felt we were in with a chance of winning the game at the midway stage," Bradburn said.
"We erred on being slightly too short in our bowling, with the short side boundaries making it easier for them to hit over instead of us forcing them to hit down the ground by bowling fuller."
Opener Sinclair struck 71 off 52 balls, with four sixes and five fours, while the highly promising Young - a former New Zealand under-19 captain - smashed 57 off 29 balls, including five sixes and four fours.
When the pair were removed in consecutive balls, the Knights bowlers did fight back to restrict any extra late damage, but the visitors then lost wickets regularly at the top of the order in reply.
"Scotty played superbly again but we couldn't execute partnerships early to give us a foundation. We felt chasing 180-odd on that park is like chasing 160 elsewhere, so we were comfortable that we had wickets in hand going into the final stages we'd be fine, but we found it tough to get momentum."