Change of pace for Northern Knights
The concentration and motivation of the Northern Knights will be tested in Napier over the next four days.
The domestic Twenty20 champions return to first-class action at Napier's McLean Park against the Central Stags starting today.
Northern will field six players who were part of the XI that won the HRV Twenty20 title in Hamilton on Saturday night, earning their side a place in the qualifying tournament for the lucrative Champions Trophy this year.
Captain Daniel Flynn, batsmen Brad Wilson and Daryl Mitchell, batsman/wicketkeeper BJ Watling and bowling allrounders Scott Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi have been named in the squad to face the Stags.
The Knights will need to adjust quickly to the demands of the Plunket Shield if they want to chase another trophy during their 2013-14 campaign. Coach James Pamment's side are second-to-bottom on the ladder with just 32 points from their first five games, with only the Stags (27 points) below them.
However, with a maximum of 20 points available for an outright win, there is a small opportunity for the Knights to chase current leaders Canterbury Wizards (62 points) over the remaining five four-day matches.
The Knights scored their only outright win of the first half of the season over the Stags in Hamilton in late November, triumphing by seven wickets. However, that Knights side did feature the test pace spearheads Trent Boult and Tim Southee - who took 12 wickets between them in the match - along with former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori and current Black Caps one-day star Corey Anderson.
None of that quartet are available in Napier, although the Stags will be without Ross Taylor and Adam Milne.
The Knights will be looking for the quartet of Joe Carter, Bharat Popli, James Baker and Mitchell Santner to continue their excellent form from the recent national provincial A tournament, while young seamer Anurag Verma will be out to make an impression after injury has again limited his opportunities this season.