Perfect opportunity for Northern Knights batters

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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The Northern Knights batsmen won't get a better venue to rediscover their form.

Eden Park Outer Oval will host the Knights in a pivotal HRV Twenty20 match against the Auckland Aces today (4pm start), with the visitors needing to halt a slump in form with the bat.

Losses in Mt Maunganui last week, when the hosts failed to chase down small targets set by the Canterbury Wizards and Wellington Firebirds respectively, saw the SkyCity Knights drop from the top of the table to a share of third place with today's opponents.

But the under-fire batsmen should relish the Auckland venue that hosted last month's Plunket Shield game between the two sides. Over four days, 1521 runs were scored while just 17 wickets fell at an average of 89.47.

"It was the flattest piece of dirt I've ever seen in NZ cricket," Knights coach James Pamment said afterwards.

The three Knights batsmen under the most pressure to produce this week - they meet the Aces again in Hamilton on Friday night in their penultimate round-robin match - are former Black Caps allrounder Scott Styris, current test wicketkeeper/batsman BJ Watling and No 3 Brad Wilson.

Styris has made just 73 runs in five innings at an average of 18.25. In the two defeats in Mt Maunganui, Styris was endeavouring to pace a rescue effort but got out when trying to find the boundary as the required run-rate grew late in the chases.

Watling, overlooked for New Zealand's one-day side in the current series against the West Indies, has only managed 107 runs in seven games (averaging 17.66) and twice failed in the defeats to Canterbury and Wellington when batting at No 4.

Wilson averages 17.14 from seven appearances and may lose his place at No 3 in tomorrow's XI against Auckland to returning Australian import Dan Harris, who had three impressive knocks at the start of the campaign.

Northern's vast bowling lineup fared well at the Mount, with the spin options again to the fore.

Off-spinner Jono Boult has been the pick of the 11 bowlers used in seven matches by the Knights, taking seven wickets at an average of 18.85 while conceding just 6.60 runs per over.

Left-arm spinner Anton Devcich and Black Caps test leg-spinner Ish Sodhi have also proved tough to score against, giving up 5.42 and 6.40 runs per over respectively while Black Caps test spearhead Trent Boult has also been effective in the short format, capturing five wickets at 24 with an RPO of six.

With Harris coming back into the side tomorrow, Pamment has a number of options for the makeup of his XI, although seamer Graeme Aldridge (two wickets at 46, RPO 10.22) may miss out to Anurag Verma, who has yet to play in the competition this summer.

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- Fairfax Media

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