Daniel Flynn sets sights on NZ opening spot
The Northern Knights will give Daniel Flynn a chance to press for a test opening spot against England when they resume their Plunket Shield title defence today.
Flynn will join fellow left-hander Joey Yovich at the top of the order for the SkyCity Knights against the Auckland Aces at Hamilton's Seddon Park in their sixth-round shield encounter over the next four days.
Knights coach Grant Bradburn said they wanted to give the 27-year-old every opportunity of playing as an opener against the touring England side in the three-test series starting in March.
With captain Brendon McCullum hinting at a shift down the order to No 4 in the recent two-test series hammering by South Africa before Peter Fulton got injured, and McCullum's incumbent opening partner Martin Guptill horribly out of form, there is room for Flynn to stake a claim.
Flynn was among a number of batsmen who failed against the Proteas test side, averaging 5.5 while batting at No 5. He has opened for the Black Caps at test level before, including against South Africa in Wellington last March after he found a rich vein of form for the Knights in the second half of last season's shield-winning campaign that helped him regain his spot in the national side.
A further bundle of runs from Flynn would go a long way to bolstering Northern's quest to keep the domestic first-class title after a tardy start.
The Knights didn't register their first outright win of the campaign until their fifth and most recent outing before Christmas when they beat Wellington by six wickets in Wellington.
That still leaves them in last spot in the six-team competition with 35 points, 39 behind the leaders, the Central Stags.
But Bradburn insists the title chase is far from over.
"We're very excited about the prospect of playing some good, exciting cricket in this back half of the season," Bradburn said.
"We've got no option not to, but we also know we have a side that is capable of playing winning cricket."
The Knights' cause would be helped by winning a toss. The defending champions won only one toss in their first five games of the shield campaign, when they batted first in the victory over Wellington.
In the four other encounters, the Knights have lost the toss, been inserted and failed to score a good first-innings tally in some difficult conditions for batting.
"It's not an excuse, just a reality," Bradburn said.
"We didn't get enough runs in those first innings to stay in the game, and the tracks later changed quite dramatically.
"It's not just a matter of relying on winning tosses, the players know we have to bat better and are very aware of just how valuable the first-innings bonus points are."
Bradburn said his squad were bitterly disappointed at missing out on the HRV Cup Twenty20 playoffs last week after leading the competition through the first half of the campaign but had refocused their efforts on the four-day game.
The hosts will be without veteran seamer Graeme Aldridge through a foot injury, while Black Caps Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee and Corey Anderson are also all still sidelined with injuries.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Northern Knights: Brad Wilson (captain), Daniel Flynn, Joey Yovich, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Wheater, Jono Boult, Ish Sodhi, Anurag Verma, Brent Arnel, James Baker, Tony Goodin. Auckland Aces: Gareth Hopkins (captain), Michael Guptill-Bunce, Tim McIntosh, Craig Cachopa, Colin de Grandhomme, Dusan Hakaraia, Reece Young, Bruce Martin, Michael Bates, Dean Bartlett, Michael Bates, Matt Quinn, Chris Martin.