Third win puts ND on top
A third consecutive victory has pushed the Northern Knights to the top of the domestic one-day competition.
The Knights won a low-scoring encounter against the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve today by three wickets. They collected four points for the win and now have 13 points from four matches, to head the Ford Trophy table by two points from the Canterbury Wizards.
After dismissing the hosts for just 154 in 44.2 overs, the Knights required key contributions with the bat from Daryl Mitchell and allrounder Scott Kuggeleijn to get home with 5.3 overs to spare.
They were tested in their chase by an inspired performance from former New Zealand quick bowler Mark Gillespie, who knocked the top off the visitors' innings and finished with 4-22 off his 10 overs.
However, Mitchell provided the spine of the Northern reply with his second consecutive half-century after returning from a broken thumb. Coming in with his side 6-1 in the second over, Mitchell faced 71 balls in his 52 before becoming Gillespie's fourth victim.
He was given a life when the match was evenly poised with Northern 83-5, when Grant Elliott dropped a caught and bowled chance.
Kuggeleijn reined in his aggressive instinct to guide his team home, making 27 off 77 balls with just two boundaries, and he got handy support from Jono Boult and Ish Sodhi to seal victory.
"There was great composure initially from Daryl, who looked in total control, and then when he went Scott Kuggeleijn played a fine hand," Knights coach James Pamment said.
Pamment said the wicket offered assistance throughout to the seam bowlers especially, but particularly to the Knights in the morning when it was overcast
"In the second innings it was probably more about their reputations and their experience that put us pressure," he said.
"There were five international bowlers in their lineup and you can understand how an inexperienced group like ours could get under pressure."
Earlier, the Knights had to omit regular skipper Daniel Flynn after he failed to recover from a groin injury suffered in the Knights' third round win over Auckand in Hamilton on Sunday.
Stand-in skipper BJ Watling won the toss, inserted the hosts and had constant success through his bowlers. The seamers made early inroads, with former Firebird Kuggeleijn dismissing Stephen Murdoch and Grant Elliott, while Graeme Aldridge got rid of prolific opener Michael Papps.
Henry Walsh endeavoured to solidify the Wellington middle-order but after facing 65 deliveries, he was run out by Joe Carter for 31 and the Firebirds lower order couldn't stop the slump.
Black Caps test leg-spinner Sodhi followed up his mesmerising spell against Auckland with another dominant display. He took 2-26 off his 10 overs - with both scalps fellow spinners in Luke Woodcock and Jeetan Patel.
Off-spinner Boult took 2-15 off seven overs in another star turn for the Knights, while Kuggeleijn and Aldridge also ended up with two wickets.
Among Gillespie's scalps was Black Caps test wicketkeeper BJ Watling for five, which saw Knights fall to 34-3 in the 10th over. Watling has been in superlative form in the early stages of the Trophy, with previous scores of 72, 83 not out and 97 not out.