Northern Knights find perfect balance for title

Black Caps players come and go from the Plunket Shield every season, so a first-class title cannot be won by relying on a team's big names.

The Northern Knights got the balance perfect when they captured the 2011-12 crown - their seasoned domestic performers played key roles while the star names also made critical contributions.

Graeme Aldridge has been a stalwart of Northern Districts teams for 14 seasons, and the 35-year-old remains a critical cog.

Aldridge bowled nearly 250 overs during the campaign, capturing 28 wickets at an average of 25.92. He combined with Brent Arnel - 36 wickets at 23.25 - and Trent Boult - 23 scalps at 22.47 - to provide the Knights with a three-pronged spearhead that gave them valuable first innings bowling points and the potency to claim essential outright victories.

"It's good when you do well yourself and win a competition," Aldridge said.

The side was also able to nab the services of regular internationals Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori during their campaign and reaped the rewards. Southee's 7-37 against Wellington in a round two clash at Lincoln in November set them on the path to a win by an innings and 230 runs while Vettori took 12 wickets at 16.33, including 5-69 in the second innings of a 134-run win over Canterbury in Rangiora while also snaring some crucial catches.

Daniel Flynn is now part of the Black Caps test side after showing his undoubted talents with the Knights last season that led to his recall to the national team.

The punishing left-hander recovered from a hip injury that required surgery and kept him out of action until February to destroy a number of bowling attacks during the latter stages of summer.

Flynn finished the Shield season as the side's leading runscorer with 584 runs from just nine innings, at an average of 83.42, including three centuries.

In doing so, he drew level with former ND legend Graeme Hick as the association's most prolific century-maker with 10 tons - a mark he passed this season.

Three other batsman accumulated more than 500 runs - captain Brad Wilson, opener Joseph Yopvich and James Marshall.

Black Caps regular Kane Williamson made just one start for the Knights but made it count.

The stylish right-handed batsman made an unbeaten 284 off 400 balls in 592 minutes against Wellington that backed up Southee's big haul and flattened their opponents within three days and set the winning ways for the rest of the season.

Waikato Times