Northern Knights fill in star gap
The Northern Knights have lost another star performer to the Black Caps but coach Grant Bradburn is confident they still have enough firepower to chase victory against the Auckland Aces.
The defending Plunket Shield champions start their second four-day encounter at Eden Park Outer Oval today without Daniel Flynn, who is joining the New Zealand side for the test series against Sri Lanka. He will replace his fellow Northern Districts international B J Watling in the national side after the limited-overs series but batsman/wicketkeeper Watling will not be available for the Knights until next week's third-round shield match against the Central Stags in Gisborne.
The Knights have been bolstered by the return of veteran seamer Graeme Aldridge into their squad but it is likely Flynn's place in the side will be taken by Daryl Mitchell, who was 12th man in Northern Districts' draw against Otago Volts in Hamilton this week.
"We told him [Aldridge] it probably wasn't going to be a straight swap in the batting order," Bradburn joked. "It was nice to see Flynny off with some really good form. He batted beautifully in the second innings and has been working very hard at his game."
Flynn made a trademark rollicking 182 in the second innings against Otago that, in conjunction with 167 from Corey Anderson, almost propelled the Knights to victory, leaving big shoes for Mitchell to fill.
"Daryl's been training hard and, like a bunch of guys just outside the team, it's not what they haven't done, it's how well others are going that's kept them out."
Anderson's maiden first-class century came after the former teen prodigy had battled injuries and form slumps in recent years, and indicated why the Knights have big hopes for what the hard-hitting batsman and seam bowler could deliver.
"It was awesome for Corey - hopefully now he'll grow in confidence and really kick on," Bradburn said.
"He's capable of producing big scores and has underachieved till now, so I think it proved it to himself more than anything. The most pleasing thing for me was the way he batted between 100 and 140 - he was determined not to give it away and played as if 100 was just a number."
Bradburn said Anderson's bowling showed the benefit of a lot of work with Northern Districts high-performance development coach Craig Ross, and his all-round game would improve his prospects of making the jump to the international level.
The Knights had three newcomers against Otago - legspinner Ish Sodhi took two wickets in the second innings and made 48 in the first innings; English wicketkeeper Adam Wheater made a rapid and inventive 29 in the side's second dig to enable a declaration; and seamer Tony Goodin picked up his first shield wicket but rarely featured in the second innings when his side were desperate to dismiss Otago.
Goodin is likely to be replaced by Aldridge against Auckland but Bradburn said Goodin showed enough signs in the 25 overs he bowled against Otago to indicate he had a future with the Knights.
"I was really pleased with all three debutants," Bradburn said.
"I thought Tony did a fantastic job - with Brent Arnel and James Baker bowling superbly well they took up the bulk of the overs.
"It was great to see how strongly James bowled for the whole match - that's a result of a lot of hard work over winter on his resilience.
"But Tony can be proud he looked at home at first-class level."
The match at Eden Park Outer Oval is the first shield game at the venue since March 2009.
"It's a new block, so there's a little bit of the unknown about it," Bradburn said. "But we're expecting similar conditions to the past, when it's been a high-scoring ground."
Auckland lost their opening shield match by four wickets against Central in Napier this week.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Northern Knights: Brad Wilson (c), Joseph Yovich, James Marshall, Anton Devcich, Corey Anderson, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Wheater, Graeme Aldridge, Ish Sodhi, Brent Arnel, James Baker, Tony Goodin.
Auckland Aces: Tim McIntosh, Lou Vincent, Reece Young, Anaru Kitchen, Colin de Grandhomme, Gareth Hopkins, Colin Munro, Bruce Martin, Michael Bates, Mitchell McClenaghan, Chris Martin, Bhupinder Singh.