Mitchell breakthrough leads ND to victory

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 18:37 17/02/2013

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He couldn't keep them in the hunt to defend the Plunket Shield, but Daryl Mitchell's breakthrough performance in Whangarei hints that the Northern Knights are developing another potential international.

The son of former Waikato rugby legend and ex-All Black coach John Mitchell registered his maiden first-class century against the Wellington Firebirds on Saturday.

Mitchell backed up his landmark ton with an unbeaten 51 in the second innings yesterday to guide the Knights home with five wickets to spare.

The maximum 20 points gained from the victory couldn't keep the defending champs in contention for the Shield title with one round remaining, despite the Knights now having scored as many outright wins as they did last season.

Mitchell, born and bred in Hamilton but nabbed two years ago by the Knights from Perth, provided the backbone in each innings for the hosts at Cobham Oval, making 136 in the first innings.

His two knocks took his first-class tally for the season to 622 runs from 12 innings at an average of 56.55.

He brought up his century on day three after spending a few overs stuck on 99.

"I was definitely a bit nervous and you start thinking about a few things while you're out there," Mitchell said.

"I had one ball that went down the leg side that I missed that I should have scored off and I started to think 'surely not'.

"It was nice to get that four down the ground and it's certainly a cool feeling to make your first hundred. Hopefully there's more to come."

He soon received congratulatory phone calls from his dad and mum from overseas and his biggest fan, grandfather Roy Greene.

"Granddad sits there watching the scores every day on the laptop. I lived with grandad and grandma last year and live next door to them now. We're very tight."

Mitchell came from the fast, bouncy wickets of Perth with an aggressive approach and admitted he's had to temper that as he's worked to find his feet at this level, especially with the Knights' top-order often struggling for runs.

"A lot of it's just more respect for the bowlers and the pitches, and in the situations I've been in I've had to knuckle down," Mitchell said.

"It's something I've totally enjoyed and it's working for me now."

His patience paid dividends in Whangarei - his century took 235 balls.

"You just go through that ball-by-ball process. That's something I've been working on the last few weeks after not being able to convert the previous fifties," he said.

"The first 20 balls are pretty crucial and after that you're just reacting to what you see."

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There were also promising signs for the national side, with Tim Southee coming through his return from a thumb injury by grabbing nine wickets.

The 24-year-old took 5-52 in Wellington's second innings as the visitors were dismissed for 234 shortly before stumps on Saturday in an innings which saw ND stalwart James Marshall take his 100th first-class catch for the association.

Southee now appears to be a certain starter for the Black Caps against England in the first test starting in Dunedin on March 6, with the squad due to be named on Sunday.

The Knights slumped initially yesterday to 9-2, but Mitchell again provided the anchor while another injury returnee, Corey Anderson, backed up his first innings contribution of 59 with 35 off 48 balls, including five fours and a six.

The Knights will have to hand over their Shield title at the end of the season after the Central Stags defeated the Canterbury Wizards at Rangiora yesterday, with the Otago Volts also still in contention to take the crown.

The last game of the first-class season for the Knights is against the Stags starting in Nelson on Wednesday.

- Fairfax Media

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