Knights reflect on their season of honours
The Plunket Shield triumph sealed by the Knights yesterday meant Northern Districts have achieved both of their significant goals this season – producing Black Caps and winning trophies.
The Northern Knights were able to wrap up the domestic first-class title with one day remaining despite getting little joy over the past two days in their final-round match against the Central Stags in Napier.
Their only challengers, Auckland Aces, were unable to grab maximum points in their match against Canterbury Wizards in Auckland, ensuring the Knights took the four-day title for the second time in three seasons.
Knights coach Grant Bradburn said winning the shield while supplying the national team with a swag of players over the season was a huge achievement.
"That's almost the most satisfying thing of all," he said.
"We've had eight Knights players in the Black Caps since their season started with the tour of Zimbabwe, so to do that and also win the shield is particularly pleasing and aligns directly with what we're all about."
Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Daniel Flynn, Trent Boult, Brent Arnel and Graeme Aldridge have all represented New Zealand this season, meaning the Knights have shown more depth than any of the country's other five associations.
"It says a lot about what's happening below the Knights, with our A programme and the Craig's Academy under Craig Ross," Bradburn said.
"The core of the team, as the Black Caps came and went, have been incredibly stable. Brad Wilson has led the team superbly well, the Marshalls [James and Hamish] have been pillars of strength. Our bowlers, Brent Arnel, Graeme Aldridge and Trent Boult, have been hugely consistent and led the way, and that was a key for us.
"The Black Caps also made significant contributions for us when they played."
Bradburn said the team were relieved after missing a couple of chances to seal the title in recent weeks, including their failure to make the 250 runs in their first innings yesterday that would have handled them the crown.
"The weather and not quite playing well enough had held us up, so the players were stoked and there was a bit of relief at lunchtime. We had a wee taste of champagne and the players will celebrate in style when they get a chance.
"It would have been nice to do it on day two and control our own destiny, but we got the jitters. "We moved away from the processes that had been working so well all season."
Bradburn and Wilson have encouraged an aggressive approach to both batting and bowling, which paid dividends this season under the Shield's new points system.
The coach – who assumed 12th man duties yesterday with Peter McGlashan on bereavement leave and Wilson keeping – said the plan yesterday was not to worry too much about how Auckland fared.
"That didn't last long," he laughed. "With 10 overs left I was following it ball by ball, and when it was ours [physio] Shane Derry blew the whistle to let the players know."
At stumps on day three, the Knights were 12-1 in their second innings, needing another 410 runs for victory on the final day of the season.