Knights' hopes dashed in under three days
The Northern Knights have been left to play for pride - and a place in the side - for the remainder of the first-class season after a drubbing by Otago.
The defending Plunket Shield champs were beaten in Queenstown by eight wickets within three days on Saturday, leaving them too far behind competition leaders the Central Districts Stags and the title-chasing Otago Volts to overtake them with three rounds remaining.
Top-order batting woes again hurt the SkyCity Knights' hopes of matching the red-hot HRV Cup winners, for whom former Northern Districts pace bowler Ian Butler was a standout performer.
"To finish a four-day game in 2 days is a bit disappointing to say the least," said the Knights assistant coach, James Pamment.
"When you look at the bare facts, our top four haven't done the job."
The quartet of Daniel Flynn, Joseph Yovich, skipper Brad Wilson and James Marshall combined for 196 runs over the two innings, with none of them able to turn a start into a big score, as Northern Districts were dismissed for 217 and 227.
Rookie middle-order batsman Daryl Mitchell had a match double of 60 and 54 but that wasn't enough to set Otago a testing target as they chased down 125 on day three with ease.
"Daryl Mitchell's made contributions that you'd probably would be happy with for a player of his experience and standard, but the problem lies with the top four," Pamment said.
"Unfortunately, in this game they haven't got the job done.
"In the last game, three of them got hundreds and we saw what happened," he said, referring to the three-day victory over the Auckland Aces in the previous round at Hamilton's Seddon Park.
"In this game the contributions have been too small from our top order, allied with not occupying the crease, and therein lies the problem.
"They're quite an experienced bunch - you would hope that after a poor game here that mentally they'll prepare themselves a little bit better for the next game," Pamment said.
"They all put their hand up and said: we didn't get the job done."
Pamment said there were no problems with the wicket and he gave credit to Butler - who finished with match figures of 10-111 - and his Otago team-mates.
"They were demanding right throughout - they put the ball in good areas, asked consistent questions and unfortunately our boys couldn't find the right answers."
Northern Districts' batting will be notably strengthened for their next Plunket Shield match against the Canterbury Wizards starting on Thursday in Christchurch, with Black Caps Kane Williamson and BJ Watling set to join the squad.
The international duo have been left out of the New Zealand Black Caps squad to play three Twenty20 matches against the touring England side so they can clock up some first-class cricket ahead of the test series.
They will rejoin the Black Caps later for the three one-day international matches.