Day Three, SKYCITY Northern Knights (195 & 139) lost to the Devon Hotel Central Stags (265 & 73-7; Noema-Barnett 28*, Aldridge 4-20, Kuggeleijn 3-33) by three wickets.
The Helter Skelter pace of the match continued unabated into the third morning, early wickets remarkably pulling the SKYCITY Northern Knights into outright contention even as their opponents chased a lowly target of 70.
Having watched youngster Scott Kuggeleijn enjoy all the success the previous evening, senior pace bowler Graeme Aldridge now took centre stage with a quadruple strike. He trapped Will Young lbw then, two balls later, whooped as scoreless Greg Hay prodded the ball straight to Joe Carter.
Requiring a further 43 runs on a pitch still providing assistance, the Stags’ modest quest looked even dicier when Aldridge put himself on a hat-trick. He had opener Ben Smith leg before for the second time in the match, then critically took out first-innings aggressor Doug Bracewell for a duck - Bracewell was Carter’s third catch of the innings, Aldridge finishing with 4-20 off nine.
Although seven down inside 12 overs and under significant pressure, the Stags still had two genuine batsmen at the crease in current and former captains Kieran Noema-Barnett and Kruger van Wyk. The morning had been a tightrope of suspense and concentration for both sides, but when van Wyk finally picked off a couple of rare fours, off consecutive balls from a flagging Kuggeleijn, the pair could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It was all it took to release the tension in the air. Just a handful of boundaries, including a six from Noema-Barnett, saw the Stags ultimately race round the last bend to a three-wicket win. The Knights were left kicking themselves: just one more partnership of note could have seen them pick up valuable points as they teetered mid-table. Instead, finally the first victory of the Stags’ entire season had arrived - and with five full sessions to spare.
Day two: SKYCITY Northern Knights 195 and 139 all out ( Scott Kuggeleijn 34, Ben Wheeler 4-21, Doug Bracewell 3-47) lead Devon Hotels Central Stags 265 and 14-3 ( Scott Kuggeleijn 3-4) by 56 runs.
The Devon Hotel Central Stags require 70 runs to win with two days remaining, after rolling the SKYCITY Northern Knights for 139 earlier - while they should be confident of reaching their target, three late wickets to Scott Kuggeleijn will give the visitors hope.
The Devon Hotel Central Stags lower order may have proved the difference between the two sides, as Kruger van Wyk (65) and Doug Bracewell (77) showed more resistance than most on a wicket that held more than a few surprises for the batsmen. Along with Ben Wheeler (20) they dragged their side to 265, before Bracewell then set about making life difficult for the Knights.
The Knights innings was over in 48.5 overs, with a top score of 34 from Kuggeleijn - Brad Wilson 32 balls, 6 runs) and Daryl Mitchell (65 balls, 19 runs) did their best to occupy the crease, but the run of starts and no big scores told the story of the innings.
Bracewell ended with 3-47 and Wheeler 4-21 to give their side a small target for the outright win - but day two had a twist ending with a spell of 3-4 from 2.5 overs from that man Kuggeleijn to give his side some hope. The first session of day three will decide this short contest.
Wickets tumbled and batsmen struggled at McLean Park in Napier as the SKYCITY Northern Knights made it to 195 in the face of some strong Devon Hotel Central Stags bowling, before then going through the Stags top order in the second innings.
The Knights' top order struggled to come to terms with seaming conditions in Napier, with opener and skipper Daniel Flynn showing great application, along with his top order partners, just to survive. The Stags bowers were bowling excellent line and length, which soon brought wickets - Flynn and Scott Kuggeleijn were the pick of the Knights' line up, but eventually the visitors were dismissed in 61 overs for 195.
The conditions were equally bowler friendly for the Stags' innings, and Jamie How and Greg Hay were the only batsmen to show real resistance, as the hosts reached 109-5 at the close of play.
With the pitch expected to flatten out to more traditional-Naier-batting-friendly conditions as the game goes on, Central will look to occupy the crease as a first priority.