Watling to miss important match for Northern Knights

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012

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A delayed return from Sri Lanka for B J Watling was the last thing the Northern Knights needed ahead of their third round Plunket Shield match.

Watling was held back by the Black Caps after injury concerns over new arrival and Knights team-mate Daniel Flynn. That meant the in-form wicketkeeper/batsman would arrive back too late to play for the Knights against the Central Stags in the four-day game starting in Gisborne today.

Northern are in need of runs and with Watling the only Black Cap to look prolific in the waterlogged one-day series in Sri Lanka, his return should have bolstered their batting.

Instead, the defending shield champions have drafted in off-spinning allrounder Jono Boult, with rookie seamer Tony Goodin dropping out of the 12.

The older brother of ND and New Zealand left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult has made 10 first-class appearances for the Knights over five seasons and has primarily been chosen as a bowling option to complement young leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

"He can play a role with bat and ball but gives us the option of using two specialist spinners should we choose," said Knights coach Grant Bradburn.

However, the Knights look likely to go with three specialist seamers instead as the Harry Barker Reserve wicket may offer plenty to the quicks on day one.

"It looks pretty fresh," Bradburn said yesterday. "But it should turn into a good batting surface by the end of day two."

The Knights batsmen have had enough troubles on good surfaces in their first two matches, apart from a mammoth tally in the second innings of their drawn opener in Hamilton against the Otago Volts.

Only opener Joey Yovich has shown consistency and greater contributions will be needed from old hands such as skipper Brad Wilson and James Marshall, and talented allrounders Corey Anderson and Anton Devcich.

The Knights have just seven points from two rounds - in contrast to 24 at the same stage last season - and badly need an outright win to maintain contact with the leading sides.

That won't be easy without Watling, the injured Daniel Vettori and Black Caps Tim Southee, Boult, Kane Williamson and Flynn.

Central - who have Ross Taylor, Doug Bracewell, Kruger van Wyk on test duty but may get young quick Adam Milne back from Sri Lanka - are in second spot in the standings with 25 points. ian.anderson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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