Northern Knights pair seeking capital reward
The spin attack of the Northern Knights has rightly gained plenty of plaudits for their part in the team's successes this season.
But their chalk-and-cheese new-ball pairing has also been a huge factor in the SkyCity Knights closing to within a win of their second piece of silverware in 2013/14.
Scott Kuggeleijn and Graeme Aldridge have taken 31 wickets for the hosts of today's Ford Trophy one-day final at Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval between the Knights and the Wellington Firebirds; often helping the Knights gain the upper hand in some low-scoring contests.
That duo, coupled with the likes of spinners Ish Sodhi, Jono Boult and Mitchell Santner, have helped a Knights side that has played most of the campaign without a handful of Black Caps, reach their second final of the season after winning the Twenty20 title in summer.
''The spinners have had the benefit of being able to bowl in an attacking manner because we've had good starts - whether they be wicket-taking starts or containing starts,'' Knights coach James Pamment said.
''It means a strong spin-bowling group have been able to do their work on top rather than from behind.''
The 22-year-old Kuggeleijn has proved to be a smart signing in the off-season, lured back from Wellington to his home association.
He has been a sterling workhorse over all three formats and has emerged as the leading Ford Trophy bowler with 21 wickets at an average of 18.85.
While Kuggeleijn is capable of blasting out batsmen, the 36-year-old Aldridge often works them out while proving hard to score from - his 10 scalps this season in the trophy have come at 15.50, while conceding 3.54 runs per over.
''Graeme's been a perfect foil for Scott - Scott does have a licence to go on attack, and he's complemented by Graeme, who has been demanding and economical,'' Pamment acknowledged.
Aldridge is already the most prolific wicket-taker in the history of domestic one-day cricket in New Zealand and with an appearance today will become the most-capped one-day player for Northern Districts with his 123rd match.
Today's hosts will also have their new-ball and spin attacks bolstered respectively by returning Black Caps Trent Boult and Anton Devcich.
On a wicket likely to play slow and low, the Knights batsmen will be aiming to improve on their effort against the Wellington spin twins of Jeetan Patel and Luke Woodcock.
When the two sides last met in the round-robin at Seddon Park, the Firebirds duo took five wickets while conceding 33 runs in their 20 combined overs in a match won by the visitors to keep their season alive.
Pamment is confident his batsmen will improve on that effort.
''We showed signs that we did learn from that Wellington game when we played against Canterbury in the following game at Seddon Park,'' Pamment said.
''We're comfortable that our group learnt from that experience and will be looking to put the pressure back on them when they do bowl their spinners.''
The Firebirds also have a vastly experienced seam lineup, comprising former Knight Brent Arnel, Mark Gillespie and Grant Elliott, while opener Michael Papps and middle-order bat James Franklin add to their list of past Black Caps, along with current NZ limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi.
Despite those names, Wellington have been trophy-less for 10 years - and will be desperate to end that drought today.
''I think everybody's been waiting for this group to do something over the last few years,'' Pamment said.
''With the addition of a couple of other players with international experience over the last couple of years like Arnel and Ronchi, they're a very strong unit and will be a tough team to knock over.''
HOW THEY LINE UP
Northern Knights: Daniel Flynn (captain), Brad Wilson, Joe Carter, BJ Watling, Daryl Mitchell, Anton Devcich, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Jono Boult, Graeme Aldridge, Trent Boult.
Wellington Firebirds: Michael Pollard, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch, Tom Blundell, James Franklin (captain), Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Luke Woodcock, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel, Brent Arnel, Andy McKay.