Apr 112014
 
Cricket privatisation seen as good in principle

The Canterbury Cricket Association welcomes a move to third-party investment, suggesting it will benefit all aspects of the domestic game, including the grass-roots level.

They do not, however, have a deep-pocketed money man waiting in the wings to buy into the association.

They did when the idea was first mooted more than three seasons ago, but the anonymous Christchurch businessman with links overseas has now lost interest.

The introduction of third-party investment into domestic cricket is one of 17 of recommendations by a working party made to New Zealand Cricket.

The working party was designed to come up with ways to breath life into the slowly dying domestic game.

It makes no money, barely rates a flicker on the public-interest levels and is not producing international-ready cricketers.

And while third-party investment is only one of 17 recommendations, it has already been agreed upon by the six major associations (MAs), the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA) and New Zealand Cricket.

The rules need to be established and that is being done at the moment, though the goal is for MAs wanting to sell off part of their business being able to do so by the start of next summer.

A common fear is that wealthy investors will come in, take over the associations’ Twenty20 sides – the most likely part to make money – and forget the rest.

Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon, who was part of the working party, said that “definitely” would not be the case. A number of potential conflicts had been identified and Germon said rules would be established to ensure the safety of cricket at all levels.

He also suggested partial privatisation could help grassroots cricket.

Germon said if the right people were involved, people with strong business contacts and the ability to bring in more money and turn the association into more of a money-making venture, that money would help all levels of cricket.

The MAs will only be allowed to sell up to 49 per cent of their business and the investors and the amount paid need to be approved by New Zealand Cricket.

“So currently we get to spend 100 per cent of our profits,” Germon said. “But 51 per cent of a good profit could well be a lot better than 100 per cent of not very much.”

The interested party Canterbury Cricket had previously lined up is understood to have had 11 investors ready to front up with $25,000 each.

And that sort of multiple-investor setup could be more attractive than one person or business stumping up a big chunk of money.

But money was not the main goal behind the privatisation, he said.

Both Germon and NZCPA boss Heath Mills said the improvement of the domestic game across all three formats was the crucial factor.

“We’ve been pretty keen on the structure of the domestic game being reviewed for quite a while now,” Mills said.

“Principally, that stems from the fact domestic cricket is currently viewed as a development programme for the Black Caps, so all the decisions regarding it play second fiddle to the international game.”

Mills said by tweaking the structure, and possibly putting it under a different entity, it would be able to grow much better as a product.

That, too, if it were done correctly, could help player development .

“The better our domestic competition is, the better the players coming out of it will be,” he said.

“We’re really excited by the fact that New Zealand Cricket is reviewing the structure because we’ve been operating under the same governance structure for 100 years.”

Mills said privatisation made sense and the current model was abnormal.

“Around the world, 90 per cent of professional sport is privately owned and run, and is pretty successful.

“New Zealand Cricket wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t offer this as an option.”

With the current model not working, there is also a “what have we got to lose?” attitude from parties keen on the move.

Germon said Canterbury was keen to test the waters with third-party investment, and had been for some time.

Until the rules were all in place, however, they would not be hunting potential investors.

Former Canterbury and New Zealand player Chris Harris was pleased to hear the CCA was open to change, and he supported anything that helped the domestic game.

Harris who, with 251 matches for Canterbury across all three formats, is the association’s most capped player, said the move “made perfect sense”.

“Domestic cricket hasn’t had the support for a while now, and anything that can be done to change that is a good thing. I’m glad they’re being pro-active, but I also think it’s good only 49 per cent can be sold.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 102014
 
Wizards' Shanan Stewart retires from cricket

After 244 matches for Canterbury – the second most by any cricketer – Shanan Stewart has retired.

The 31-year-old announced his plans to his team-mates recently and is stepping away from the Canterbury team he first represented in 2001 as a teenager.

He scored 57 that day, in a first-class match against Northern Districts in Gisborne – in the same match Chris Martin scored his highest first-class score of 25.

Stewart went on to pass that 57 plenty of times, scoring 48 half-centuries times in all for Canterbury and 11 hundreds.

His current team-mates, chiefly Canterbury captain and Stewart’s mate Peter Fulton, organised a farewell of sorts at last night’s Canterbury Cricket Awards.

While form meant Stewart was getting fewer opportunities to represent Canterbury, a young family, business opportunities and building his own house with the family company all helped him make the decision, Stewart said.

“It was still a very tough call,” he said. “I’ve made some really good mates in this sport and it was a pretty tough decision to retire.

“But I’ve got a young family now and other things on my plate and, really, at the end of the day I probably wasn’t having as much success as I wanted.”

His 244 games across all three formats – 96 first-class, 108 one-day and 40 Twenty20 – for Canterbury is second only to Chris Harris who played 251 (84, 154 and 13).

Stewart won’t be lost to cricket – he hopes to continue playing for Canterbury Country and is coaching at his old school, St Bede’s College.

“I’m lucky because I’m young enough that I can keep playing a bit and who knows, if I score lots of runs, we’ll just see what happens.

“But the kids and my family are the main thing for me.”

Stewart played four one-day internationals in 2010, scored seven first-class centuries including 227no against Central Districts in New Plymouth and 88no in a Twenty20 match for New Zealand A.

But true to his red-and-black through and through nature and his team-first mentality, his highlight is not an individual one.

“Winning the four-day championship after the earthquake [2010-2011 season] when we were all down and out a bit, that was special,” he said.

“The way Fults and Bobby [assistant coach Bob Carter] pulled us through, that was brilliant and winning that title really was the highlight for me. I owe a lot to Bobby, he was the coach who really seemed to get the most out of me.”

In terms of his New Zealand games, Stewart laments not scoring more runs and showing what he was capable of.

He was one of a number of players used at that time in New Zealand Cricket’s revolving door policy, though he received his call-up on form and through weight of runs.

“Obviously I would have loved more success with New Zealand but I have no regrets.”

Fulton, who has played alongside Stewart throughout their careers, said it was Stewart’s humble nature and desire to want to play and to win for Canterbury that stood out most.

Along with Andrew Ellis, Fulton and Stewart are the last remaining links back to the super-strong Canterbury team of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“He’s a bit of an old-school cricketer,” Fulton said.

“He played the game hard, always gave 100 per cent and he had fun.

“That’s probably why he decided to finish, if he wasn’t enjoying it as much. We’ll miss him, though, he was a good team-mate and a good bloke to have around.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 072014
 
Cricket Wellington supports NZC's bold initiative

A piece of James Franklin and Michael Pollard might one day be yours – for the right price.

Cricket Wellington (CW) strongly supports a discussion document, tabled by New Zealand Cricket (NZC), which could lead to the franchising of the Firebirds and this country’s five other major association sides.

CW chief executive Peter Clinton does not want to see domestic cricket’s stocks fall any further and would happily sell a 49 per cent stake in his flagship team to appropriate private investors.

Plenty needs to happen for NZC’s proposal to become a reality, but CW won’t sit on their hands in the meantime.

“Would anyone be interested [in investing]? Depending on how you pitch it and what it looks like and who you go to, I’d like to think there’d be some interest,” Clinton said.

“But I’d rather go out there and ask that question than sit here and not ask it at all.”

It would certainly take special investors to get involved with a product that, as it stands, makes no money and might not at any time in the future.

Ron Brierley has been a silent CW benefactor for some time, while Clinton mentioned Gareth Morgan as another individual who has supported sporting franchises in Wellington.

“You need someone who wants to see Wellington sport do well, is a cricket fan, is in there for the long term and is prepared to not just contribute financially, but in terms of advice and networks,” Clinton said.

“If you do those things, that would increase interest in the game and get fans along to the game and give them a really fantastic experience, then we’ve got a real recipe for success there.”

Clinton believes in the strength of the product and the notion that it’s well followed, if not well attended. But without outside investment and expertise, he fears domestic cricket will be watched by fewer and fewer people and continue to have to be fully funded by NZC.

“The discussion paper would have the Firebirds as they are, across all [three] formats, but the idea would be for them to be a fully professional sports team which has its own governance and manages its own internal budget and looks after itself and its strategic objectives,” he said.

That kind of model exists to some extent now.

The Firebirds’ finances are separate from those of CW and its amateur arm, even if it all comes out of the same pot.

So when you take money from NZC and allocate it to captain Franklin and company, you do it at the expense of the kids playing school cricket on Happy Valley No 1.

A stand alone franchise, bankrolled by private owners and NZC, would enable CW to do away with what Clinton called “internal conflicts” about who gets what.

The unresolved issue is what major associations could offer investors in return, given Twenty20 cricket is basically the only format that garners television coverage and that’s piecemeal anyway.

“Broadcasting rights, for most sports clubs and teams around the world, that’s the majority of their income and the most attractive property they have.

“So we’ve got to be very clear about what exactly a major association might own and what’s available to sell,” said Clinton.

“But if we take it back to something as simple as gate receipts, if we had more resources to market and profile the domestic game could we actually increase our gate receipts markedly?

If we were able to do that, then we’d obviously be able to get a dividend or we’d be able to funnel that return back into the professional game again and slowly build it up.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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Apr 062014
 
Ronchi wakes up just in time

The man of the hour so nearly fell asleep at the wheel.

After a marathon journey – six flights between Chittagong and Tauranga – Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi was ready to curl up behind the stumps during Northern Districts’ innings in Saturday’s one-day final.

For the past three weeks on the subcontinent, he’d been fast asleep at that hour.

“I felt pretty good but about the 30-over mark of our fielding I went downhill massively, I was just knackered,” he said.

“Then when we were batting I felt jittery for most of our innings. Then once I started batting about five or six balls into it I started to relax and adrenaline took over and I felt a lot better.”

The jitters and the tiredness held off long enough for a trademark Ronchi cameo, 41 not out off 32 balls to usher home Wellington’s first title in a decade.

Eight runs were required off the final over from former Firebird Scott Kuggeleijn – the Ford Trophy’s leading wicket-taker – who offered successive full tosses to Ronchi who was then enveloped by a jubilant team-mate Luke Woodcock.

“Once you get up for that sort of stuff your adrenaline starts pumping and you’re doing what you have to do.

“I felt pretty relaxed when I was batting, if we could take it as deep as we could we had a chance.”

Ronchi, along with Knights Trent Boult and Anton Devcich, was a late callup for the final after New Zealand’s early exit from the World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh last week.

His journey home took over 24 hours, via Dhaka, Dubai and Melbourne.

After arriving home at 7pm on Thursday, Ronchi was back at the airport at 9am to fly via Auckland to Tauranga.

It was all worthwhile yesterday as he celebrated his first title in his second year with the Firebirds. And it eased the disappointment of Bangladesh.

“That’s cricket.

“When I was away I faced six balls in competition,” Ronchi reflected.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 062014
 
Anderson set for IPL after all

MATT RICHENS

Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

Fears swashbuckling New Zealand cricketer Corey Anderson would miss out on his $866,000 Indian Premier League payday are off the mark and he expects to join his team this week.

Anderson cut and dislocated the little finger on his right hand in the Black Caps’ World Twenty20 loss to Sri Lanka last week, but is hopeful he might be able to play in the Mumbai Indians’ opening match of IPL 7, in Dubai next Saturday. The 23-year-old saw a hand specialist in Auckland last Friday. He had an MRI and was pleased with the specialist’s findings.

“There’s no fracture, no break and we’re very happy with how the injury is going,” he said.

“The ligaments are all fine too; everything else is good to go. Everything went well and the news was all positive.”

Anderson has four stitches in the finger. He said he was hoping to play a full part in the IPL which would also make him available for New Zealand’s tour to the West Indies in June.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson said last week he had heard that Anderson could spend “between four and eight weeks [on the sideline]” and it would be tight whether he would be fit for the tour.

His cricketing and financial prognosis now look much brighter.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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Apr 062014
 
Firebirds end 10-year wait

They took the longest, toughest route to the final then washed away their self-doubt in a sea of bubbly. Drought broken.

Three knockout matches in seven days on the road were conquered by Wellington who returned from Mt Maunganui yesterday with ripping hangovers and a richly deserved first piece of silverware in 10 years.

“It could have gone either way but it’s just a relief that it finally went our way. It just felt good to have a trophy in our hands,” said captain James Franklin who anchored Wellington’s four-wicket victory over Northern Districts with four balls to spare in the one-day final.

A weight lifted from his shoulders, Franklin hailed the cool-headed contributions of virtually the entire squad this past week in Auckland, Christchurch and then Bay Oval.

“Our biggest failure in the last 10 years is not getting through pressure moments in big games. Now we’ve done three in the space of a week, all away from home. In all of them we had to go through adversity and soak up pressure.”

After player reviews this week and then a winter break, focus will switch to the prized Twenty20 title, where Wellington made the final of last year, and the first-class Plunket Shield.

Franklin, in his first full season as skipper, wants to continue and he expects most, if not all, of his fellow veterans to join him. That includes paceman Mark Gillespie who could barely walk on his dodgy ankles but stood up with vital death overs on Saturday alongside Brent Arnel, a key acquisition who bowled out of his skin.

“I think he [Gillespie] has 71 wickets to pass Chats’ [Ewen Chatfield’s] first-class record. Even though some of our boys are getting a bit long in the tooth they’re still playing some decent cricket. Having now won a trophy we’ve showed we can win things, but it’s only one trophy and we’d like it to be more.”

Some youngsters stood up in a squad with nine current or former Black Caps. Opener Michael Pollard went up another level with scores of 85, 70 and 43 to set the platform while Tom Blundell established himself in the top 11 and Henry Walsh guided them home in Auckland amid some wobbles.

Franklin also hailed coach Jamie Siddons whose success stories Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch and Pollard were key contributors this campaign. “He’s been a breath of fresh air after a number of years of mediocre cricket. He’s very strong on his philosophies around batting and that’s rubbing off on the young guys and even the older guys.”

Chasing 233 on a turning pitch against four spinners and test frontliner Trent Boult was tricky task but they had the right men for the job.

Franklin was crucially dropped on eight by Jono Boult at fine leg, and didn’t depart till the 48th over for 75. Then the returning Luke Ronchi did his thing, snatching the match from the Knights with an unbeaten 41 off 32.

They even had crowd assistance when a Knights supporter dunked the white ball in his beer after a Franklin six. Not even the locals would begrudge the Firebirds their overdue day in the sun.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 052014
 
Wellington ends trophy drought in one-day final

Luke Ronchi played drought-breaker for the Wellington Firebirds in Mount Maunganui today.

The Black Caps limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman struck the winning runs to give his side the Ford Trophy one-day title over the Northern Knights and end a barren 10-year stint without a domestic cricket title for the side from the capital.

Ronchi struck consecutive fours off the first two balls of the final over bowled by Scott Kuggeleijn to get the visitors home with four balls and four wickets to spare in a tense encounter that saw both sides falter when seemingly on top.

Wellington looked likely to chase down Northern’s tally off 232 for nine off 50 overs with some ease, but almost stalled until Ronchi, batting at number seven, made an unbeaten 41 off only 32 balls, including six boundaries.

Wellington skipper James Franklin rode his luck to contribute a vital 75 off 87 deliveries to play his part in the triumph.

Opener Michael Pollard gave Wellington a sound foundation to their chase as Knights captain Daniel Flynn constantly rotated his varied bowling armoury.

Franklin was given a life on eight when Jono Boult spilt a relatively simple catch at long leg when the former NZ representative top-edged a hook off Graeme Aldridge – the competition’s most prolific wicket-taker in its history.

Trent Boult trapped Pollard lbw for 43 off 79 balls to give the hosts hope, and Franklin was again fortunate to stay at the crease when it appeared Black Caps test leg-spinner Ish Sodhi had him leg before on 24, but umpire Derek Walker rejected the appeal. Franklin perished when his side needed 17 off the last 14 balls, but Ronchi took over the mantle of match-winner.

Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner took 2-35 off 10 overs for the hosts, who used seven bowlers but couldn’t quite find the magical formula to stop Wellington short.

The Wellington bowlers dictated early proceedings after Flynn won the toss before the Knights innings was given impetus and substance by Brad Wilson and BJ Watling, with the pair putting on a century stand for the third wicket.

Watling survived a chance when he edged left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock past NZ wicketkeeping rival Ronchi when on 21 in the 20th over, and had another close shave soon after when inside-edging off-spinner Jeetan Patel just past his leg stump.

Wilson was solid as the hosts looked to have seen off the twin spin threat until Watling perished to Patel in the over after he brought up his half-century.

The NZ test keeper-batsman made 50 off 65 deliveries as he and Wilson put on 104 for the third wicket. Wilson got to 67 off 93 deliveries before he fell to Woodcock in the first over of the second batting powerplay.

Santner looked like he was going to lead the Knights to a healthy total, accelerating through the latter overs with 44 off 38 balls, featuring four fours and the innings’ solitary six.

But his dismissal in the 46th over sparked an awful collapse for the hosts, who lost five wickets for 14 runs in four overs which ultimately proved hugely costly.

Former ND stalwart Arnel took 3-30 off his 10 overs for the Firebirds, while Gillespie also profited from some smart bowling at the death to end with 3-46.

SCOREBOARD

Ford Trophy final
Northern Knights vs Wellington Firebirds
Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui

NORTHERN KNIGHTS

AP Devcich lbw Arnel 5
DR Flynn c Blundell b Gillespie 12
BS Wilson c & b Woodcock 68
BJ Watling c Woodcock b Patel 50
DJ Mitchell c Elliott b Gillespie 30
MJ Santner st Ronchi b Patel 44
SC Kuggeleijn b Arnel 0
JJ Boult b Gillespie 1
IS Sodhi b Arnel 1
TA Boult not out 2
GW Aldridge not out 7

Extras (lb 4, wd 8, nb 0) 12

Total (for 9 wickets, 50.0 overs) 232

Fall: 11, 29, 133, 153, 211, 212, 216, 223, 223

Bowling: BJ Arnel 9-0-30-3 (1w), MR Gillespie 10-2-46-3 (1w), LJ Woodcock 10-0-44-1, GD Elliott 7-0-42-0 (1w), JS Patel 10-0-45-2, JEC Franklin 4-0-21-0 (1w).

WELLINGTON FIREBIRDS

MA Pollard lbw T Boult 43
MHW Papps c Watling b Kuggeleijn 14
SJ Murdoch c Santner b Sodhi 16
JEC Franklin c Mitchell b J Boult 75
TA Blundell c Aldridge b Santner 9
GD Elliott b Santner 22
L Ronchi not out 41
LJ Woodcock not out 2

Extras (b 3, lb 2, wd 4, nb 2) 11

Total (for 6 wickets, 49.2 overs) 233

Fall: 29, 73, 100, 124, 166, 216

Bowling: TA Boult 9-0-53-1 (1w, 1nb), AP Devcich 5-0-24-0 (1w, 1nb), MJ Santner 10-2-35-2, SC Kuggeleijn 7.2-1-40-1, IS Sodhi 10-0-41-1, GW Aldridge 4-0-17-0, JJ Boult 4-0-18-1 (1w).

Wellington won by four wickets

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 042014
 
Anxiety over Corey Anderson's damaged finger

Corey Anderson’s finger injury could be worse than first thought, with the New Zealand all-rounder potentially racing to be fit for the first West Indies test in early June.

Anderson’s debut Indian Premier League season with Mumbai Indians – on an $866,000 contract – remains in limbo as he awaits further medical opinion on the dislocated little finger on his right hand suffered in Chittagong on Tuesday.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said Anderson was due to visit a specialist and undergo scans in Auckland, but even the first test in Kingston on June 8 was no certainty.

”As far as I know it will be relatively tight, that’s the latest I heard. But until we get an update from a specialist we’re all guessing. I heard between four and eight weeks [on the sideline] so there’s quite a lot of time between that,” Hesson said.

It means Anderson’s IPL income could be dropping by the day, given players receive 80 per cent of their salary pro rata for matches they are available for, then the remaining 20 per cent if they actually play. The John Wright-coached Mumbai open the IPL on April 16 and play the last of their 14 round-robin matches on May 25.

Hesson and co-selector Bruce Edgar plan to announce their 15-man test squad to tour West Indies next Friday, along with the 15-man NZA team to tour England.

Anderson will likely be named subject to fitness, alongside Jimmy Neesham who would be challenging hard for the all-rounder’s spot in the Caribbean anyway.

A second spinner alongside Ish Sodhi provides the biggest head-scratcher. Hesson said two specialists would be included, with pitches in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana expected to be tailor-made for home spinners Sunil Narine and Shane Shillingford. The latter took 12 wickets against Jamaica at Kingston last month in his return from suspension for an illegal action.

”There will definitely be an opportunity for a second spinner. They will attack us with Shillingford and Narine and that will be a big challenge for us and we need to find a couple of good spinners ourselves,” Hesson said.

Contracted left-armer Bruce Martin, who Hesson said battled injury throughout the season, and legspinner Todd Astle who was the Plunket Shield’s second-highest wicket-taker, are in the mix but contenders are hardly smashing the door down.

Daniel Vettori remains on ice as he jets to India to coach Bangalore in the IPL. It is understood Vettori (back) has done little recent bowling and will have to rely on Hesson’s goodwill to keep the door open for the World Cup.

”It makes it pretty difficult if he [Vettori] hasn’t played in that period [West Indies tour]. Our next cricket is not till South Africa at home [in October]. With a whole winter it makes it difficult, but anything’s possible,” Hesson said.

The openers provide another head-scratcher. Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford are both under heavy scrutiny after a lean home summer, and the time seems right to give Tom Latham his chance, probably at Fulton’s expense.

”When you produce green seamers you ask pretty tough questions of your openers. It works for the team but probably doesn’t work so much for the individuals involved. We’ve certainly got discussions to have there,” Hesson said.

IPL players Anderson, Neesham, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Tim Southee should arrive in time for the second warmup game in Jamaica.

Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell will have to cool their heels a bit longer, too. Hesson said he would be reviewing their progress after their off-field hijinks in Auckland before the second India test.

”As we said at the time there needed to be a real change of behaviour over a period of time and that doesn’t happen overnight.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 042014
 
Northern Knights pair seeking capital reward

The spin attack of the Northern Knights has rightly gained plenty of plaudits for their part in the team’s successes this season.

But their chalk-and-cheese new-ball pairing has also been a huge factor in the SkyCity Knights closing to within a win of their second piece of silverware in 2013/14.

Scott Kuggeleijn and Graeme Aldridge have taken 31 wickets for the hosts of today’s Ford Trophy one-day final at Mt Maunganui’s Bay Oval between the Knights and the Wellington Firebirds; often helping the Knights gain the upper hand in some low-scoring contests.

That duo, coupled with the likes of spinners Ish Sodhi, Jono Boult and Mitchell Santner, have helped a Knights side that has played most of the campaign without a handful of Black Caps, reach their second final of the season after winning the Twenty20 title in summer.

”The spinners have had the benefit of being able to bowl in an attacking manner because we’ve had good starts – whether they be wicket-taking starts or containing starts,” Knights coach James Pamment said.

”It means a strong spin-bowling group have been able to do their work on top rather than from behind.”

The 22-year-old Kuggeleijn has proved to be a smart signing in the off-season, lured back from Wellington to his home association.

He has been a sterling workhorse over all three formats and has emerged as the leading Ford Trophy bowler with 21 wickets at an average of 18.85.

While Kuggeleijn is capable of blasting out batsmen, the 36-year-old Aldridge often works them out while proving hard to score from – his 10 scalps this season in the trophy have come at   15.50, while conceding   3.54 runs per over.

”Graeme’s been a perfect foil for Scott – Scott does have a licence to go on attack, and he’s complemented by Graeme, who has been demanding and economical,” Pamment acknowledged.

Aldridge is already the most prolific wicket-taker in the history of domestic one-day cricket in New Zealand and with an appearance today will become the most-capped one-day player for Northern Districts with his 123rd match.

Today’s hosts will also have their new-ball and spin attacks bolstered respectively by returning Black Caps Trent Boult and Anton Devcich.

On a wicket likely to play slow and low, the Knights batsmen will be aiming to improve on their effort against the Wellington spin twins of Jeetan Patel and Luke Woodcock.

 When the two sides last met in the round-robin at Seddon Park, the Firebirds duo took five wickets while conceding   33 runs in their 20 combined overs in a match won by the visitors to keep their season alive.

Pamment is confident his batsmen will improve on that effort.

”We showed signs that we did learn from that Wellington game when we played against Canterbury in the following game at Seddon Park,” Pamment said.

”We’re comfortable that our group learnt from that experience and will be looking to put the pressure back on them when they do bowl their spinners.”

The Firebirds also have a vastly experienced seam lineup, comprising former Knight Brent Arnel, Mark Gillespie and Grant Elliott, while opener Michael Papps and middle-order bat James Franklin add to their list of past Black Caps, along with current NZ limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi.

Despite those names, Wellington have been trophy-less for 10 years – and will be desperate to end that drought today.

”I think everybody’s been waiting for this group to do something over the last few years,” Pamment said.

”With the addition of a couple of other players with international experience over the last couple of years like Arnel and Ronchi, they’re a very strong unit and will be a tough team to knock over.”

HOW THEY LINE UP

Northern Knights: Daniel Flynn (captain), Brad Wilson, Joe Carter, BJ Watling, Daryl Mitchell, Anton Devcich, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Jono Boult, Graeme Aldridge, Trent Boult.

Wellington Firebirds: Michael Pollard, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch, Tom Blundell, James Franklin (captain), Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Luke Woodcock, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel, Brent Arnel, Andy McKay.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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