Cameo keeps ND's Verma out of record books
An unlikely cameo appearance last season kept Anurag Verma out of the record books for having one of the most prolific first-class cricket debuts yesterday in Hamilton.
The Northern Knights seamer captured seven wickets as the hosts established a dominant hand in their sixth-round Plunket Shield match against the Auckland Aces at Seddon Park.
It was the 22-year-old's second appearance in first-class cricket - he previously bowled four overs when making his shield debut last season against Otago in Dunedin as a mid-game replacement when BJ Watling was called into the national squad.
Had he not delivered those 24 balls, Verma's figures of 7-82 off 19 overs yesterday would have been the best bowling return by a debutant in the domestic first-class arena in 45 years.
He was the spearhead in dismissing the visitors for 240 and by stumps, the SkyCity Knights were 88 runs behind with nine first-innings wickets in hand.
When the four-day match began, it was hard to distinguish the wicket from the outfield, such was the green sheen.
With the hosts desperately needing a run of outright victories to revitalise their flagging title defence, a wicket offering the opportunity to quickly bowl a side out suited perfectly - once skipper Brad Wilson won the toss.
Auckland were put in and looked unlikely to make it through to lunch without having their turn to bowl.
Verma said he was determined to make the most of his opportunity.
"Once you get the ball in your hands in conditions that suit you a lot, it's a matter of bowling a lot fuller and making them play as much as you could," he said. "There was a bit of sideways movement, but not much swing until with the older ball.
"I just wanted to put it in the danger zone and let the ball do the talking."
Verma has long been regarded by the Knights coaching staff as an outstanding prospect but has been held back by a string of injuries. Now fully fit, he's beginning to realise that potential.
"I always work really hard in the winter to get my body right and I've just done some things this time that have made a difference.
"I'm starting to understand my body better - I'm getting a bit smarter as I get older."
Verma's new-ball partner, Brent Arnel, bowled equally well without great reward after beating the bat numerous times while capturing 3-55.
Auckland would have been routed if not for diminutive middle-order bat Dusan Hakaraia.
The Hawaiian-born 29-year-old was making his first-class debut and responded with a blistering 141 not out - the first ton on debut for Auckland at first-class level in more than 20 years.
He played and missed regularly before lunch but also regularly found the boundary, while he truly flourished after lunch, bringing up his landmark ton with a six off James Baker over long-on.
After his side slumped to 71-7, Hakaraia added 169 for the last three wickets with minor assistance from Michael Bates (14), Dean Bartlett (14) and Chris Martin (1 off 14 balls).
Hakaraia was left unbeaten off 142 deliveries, faced in 210 minutes, and his knock featured 22 fours and two sixes.
When Northern replied, Daniel Flynn began his case for selection as Black Caps opener with a fluent unbeaten 78 from 103 balls as he and Wilson (63 from 102 deliveries) put on an unbroken stand of 136 for the second wicket.