Knights rue drawn out affair against Otago

MARATHON EFFORT: Neil Broom plays a shot through the off side.
MARATHON EFFORT: Neil Broom plays a shot through the off side.

The Northern Knights saw an invaluable 12 points go missing yesterday when they fell agonisingly short of defeating the Otago Volts at Hamilton's Seddon Park.

The Plunket Shield scoring system offers first innings points for bat and ball, and then a large chunk for an outright victory, with a draw gaining the combatants nothing.

So the hosts were left with just four points from their first-class season-opener as the Volts, inspired by a dogged yet far from subdued unbeaten century from former Black Cap batsman Neil Broom, denied their quest to dismiss the visitors on the final day of four.

Otago resumed yesterday morning at 12-2, with their victory tally of 428 a pipe dream. Until Broom was joined by No 8 Mark Craig mid-afternoon, it appeared they also had little chance of stopping the defending Shield champions from starting their campaign with a win.

But Broom batted for 350 minutes, facing 267 balls for his 146 not out and Craig contributed 93 as their record eighth-wicket partnership against Northern Districts frustrated the home team, leaving Otago with a meritorious draw at 353-8 at stumps.

"That's the frustrating thing about four-day cricket - it's all or nothing really," said a downcast Knights captain Brad Wilson. "From where we started the day it's obviously a pretty disappointing result for us."

The Knights captured four further Otago wickets before lunch to leave the visitors reeling at 122-6, but the Volts displayed admirable spirit in the final two sessions and rode some good fortune.

The hosts spilled two chances that allowed Otago to escape further heavy pressure, and Broom got a contentious decision in his favour from umpire Tim Parlane that left the Knights equally bewildered and distraught.

Debutant legspinner Ish Sodhi and fellow Knights newcomer wicketkeeper Adam Wheater were jubilant about having Broom apparently caught behind when on 116 and Otago 271-7 with 90 minutes still to play. But as they looked up from their celebrations, they saw Parlane's finger unmoved.

Wilson wisely and magnanimously shrugged off the decision, preferring to blame his own side for missed catches that hindered their cause.

"I think we had our opportunities today and there's just a few areas that need tidying up - a couple of moments in the game that's probably cost us."

Wilson said it was easier for his side to take wickets when fresh but it needed to display a little more steel late when tired.

"That's the thing about first-class cricket - you've got to be tough enough to take those opportunities when they come along. It's later on in the day when you've got to dig deep and we didn't quite find it today," he said.

"But I thought Neil Broom batted outstandingly well and he got good support from Mark Craig."

The duo, in adding 149 for the eighth wicket, scrubbed one of the great names of New Zealand cricket from Otago's record books - the previous best eighth-wicket stand for the association against ND was between Bert Sutcliffe and Tom Flaws in Hamilton in 1960-61.

Wilson acknowledged he was proud of the way his side fought back after a substandard first two days to grab a position of dominance as they head to Auckland for their second match.

Sodhi took his first two Shield wickets yesterday but fellow debutant Tony Goodin was barely called upon in the second innings and may make way for Graeme Aldridge's return.