Northern waste no time dispatching Aces
The Northern Knights took three days to shrug off a disappointing finish to their Twenty20 campaign by launching themselves back into the hunt for the Plunket Shield.
The defending shield champions beat Auckland with more than a day to spare at Hamilton's Seddon Park, clinching victory by an innings and 90 runs on Saturday.
A collection of the maximum 20 points for the win, along with first-innings batting and bowling points, lifted the SkyCity Knights to third place on 59 points, 32 behind leaders Central Stags.
A Canterbury win yesterday, when chasing 332 to beat Central Districts, would have made the competition tighter but the visitors crumbled at Napier after resuming on the final day at 88 for one to lose by 81 runs.
After failing to win their first four matches, the Grant Bradburn-coached Northern side have now won successive four-day encounters.
They dominated an Auckland Aces side who batted poorly when inserted on a seaming track on Thursday before Northern's batsmen got on top of an attack that lost quick bowlers Michael Bates and Dean Bartlett through injury.
The Knights amassed 614 for seven declared in their first innings, with three century-makers - Daniel Flynn (166), Brad Wilson (139) and James Marshall (102) - while Daryl Mitchell (68) and Jono Boult (53 not out) rubbed the salt in.
Auckland fared only slightly better in their second innings thanks chiefly to Craig Cachopa's 115, but off-spinner Boult, with four for 37, led the way to an early finish.
Bradburn said the most pleasing aspect was how his troops adjusted to the first-class game after a diet of T20 matches.
"They clicked back into gear really easily," Bradburn said.
"That's a good sign that they understand their games very well.
"There's the simple disciplines we know have worked very well for us in Plunket Shield cricket and they picked them up straight away."
It was the Knights' second win at Seddon Park in four-day matches in 10 years, after breaking a long drought last season against Canterbury.
"It's important for us to do that; to understand the conditions well enough to be able to win here," Bradburn said.
The Knights struggled earlier this season when losing tosses on a pitch which offers plenty to the seamers in the first two sessions but rapidly develops into a track batsmen are keen to play on.
"It was definitely a good toss to win, no doubt about that," Bradburn said. "But having said that, you've still got to put the ball in the right areas and bowl well.
"It can be a challenge for the bowlers who get excited by a green deck and bowl too short.
"They [Auckland] didn't show a lot of foot movement and we exploited that, with Anurag Verma, in particular, bowling a great length and a very good line."
The Knights were without a host of Black Caps, with Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and B J Watling finishing the one-day series in South Africa while Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee and Corey Anderson are injured.
But they always seem to get a big innings from one of their international batsmen when on domestic duty and Flynn came up trumps again with his ton, which will have hugely boosted his chances of making the test team to meet England later this summer.
"When we look at the big picture, we do have a lot of players with the Black Caps and out through injury," said Bradburn, who never used that as an excuse for Northern's failure to make the HRV Cup playoffs after a blistering start.
"So when new players come in and make a big impact like Anurag and Jono did, then it's really heartening for ND."
The Knights now travel to Queenstown to meet an Otago Volts side bursting with confidence after backing up their HRV Cup triumph with an innings victory over the Wellington Firebirds.
The round seven match begins on Thursday.