The Northern Knights' pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult dished out a West Indies warning yesterday.
The pair tore through the Central Stags at Hamilton's Seddon Park yesterday, helping dismiss the visitors for just 89 in their first innings before the Stags only narrowly averted a two-day defeat.
When fading light brought a slightly premature end to the second day's play yesterday, the Stags were 169-8 in their second innings - still 29 runs away from making the Knights bat again with two days remaining.
Kruger van Wyk was the only Central Districts player to display the required fight. He topscored with 28 in the first innings and led a rearguard action in the second to be undefeated on 54 off 85 balls.
The ND new-ball duo were key performers for the national side last season, taking 75 wickets between them in 11 tests - accounting for just over half of all the scalps taken by the Black Caps.
Now both are set to next play a big part in New Zealand's three-test series against the West Indies, beginning with the first test starting in Dunedin on Tuesday.
Southee hadn't played a first-class game since the second test against England at Headingley in May, after requiring ankle surgery during winter. But he'd shown during the Knights' HRV Cup campaign that he was rounding into top form quickly.
He'd already made dramatic inroads into the Stags' top order the previous evening when capturing wickets with his first two deliveries.
Yesterday his line and length was exemplary throughout a searching examination for the visiting batsmen. They were constantly tested on and just outside off stump, on a length that offered neither the opportunity to go back comfortably, nor step forward with any certainty.
In the current players' terminology, Southee was "asking good questions" - ones that the Stags had few correct replies to in taking 4-39 off 16 overs.
Boult was his typically aggressive self, full of hustle in hurrying up the batsmen while collecting 5-30 off 15.3 overs.
When he got Doug Bracewell and Adam Milne in consecutive deliveries after lunch, he followed Ben Wheeler and Southee as bowlers in this match with the opportunity to grab a first-class hat-trick - the third time in less than two days. However, as with the previous two contenders, Boult couldn't grasp the chance.
While Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and selection chief Bruce Edgar would have been delighted by the efforts of Southee and Boult, the dominance of that duo meant there was little opportunity to get a gauge on a couple of other first test options before the squad is named tomorrow.
Allrounder Corey Anderson, who also made a premature exit from New Zealand's tour of the sub-continent with a rib injury, has yet to bowl in this match - something the selection duo would be keen to see while trying to determine the balance of their side.
Rookie leg spinner Ish Sodhi didn't make an appearance at the bowling crease until 4.50pm yesterday but impressed in the latter stages of his work to finish with 1-29 off 13 overs.
The Black Caps' brains trust won't have got much enjoyment out of Ross Taylor's return to cricket from a brief knee niggle.
Taylor returned home early from the Black Caps' limited-overs section of their tour of Sri Lanka to prepare for the home test series.
But a patella tendon knee problem ruled him out of the Stags' opening Plunket Shield match and his brief stay in two trips to the crease yesterday won't have done much to prepare him for the first test.
Taylor made 10 off 11 balls in the first innings before edging Southee to Daniel Vettori at third slip and perished for a duck in his second dig when gloving Boult down the leg side to wicketkeeper BJ Watling to end a six-ball stay.
Paceman Scott Kuggeleijn and seamer Daryl Mitchell got among the wickets in the second innings for the hosts. Kuggeleijn was rewarded for his aggression with 2-43, which included a superb off-cutter to bowl Carl Cachopa, while Mitchell returned his best first-class figures of 3-5 in four overs.
The Knights grabbed the maximum four first-innings bowling points to go with their one for batting, while the Stags had to be content with four bowling points from Tuesday's efforts.
All that's left is for the forecasted rain to stay away enough today or tomorrow to allow them to add 12 points for an outright win.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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