Half an hour of play was all that was required for the SKYCITY Northern Knights to wrap up a six-wicket victory over the Canterbury Wizards on the third morning at Hagley Oval.
Enjoying the best batting conditions of the match, BJ Watling finished unbeaten on 75 to go with his eight catches behind the stumps, his batting partner James Marshall 35 not out as they reached their target with a steady stream of boundaries. Gone was the crease-bound footwork that had undone so many batsmen from both sides on the first two days, while McCone and McEwan, the pick of the Wizards seamers throughout the match, were forced to settle for second innings figures of 3-73 and 0-72 respectively.
On a grassy pitch, ultimately it was adherence to core disciplines - moving the feet, consistently bowling a demanding length and grabbing sharp chances in the field - that had separated the two sides. The Wizards had not been without their shining moments, Dean Brownlie having held onto an absolute stinger in the first innings to dismiss Kane Williamson for just six, but the Knights gladly took the 16 points to leapfrog the Wizards into third position on the Plunket Shield points table, with just two rounds remaining.
Day two: Knights claw back advantage
An early finish is in no doubt after a second action-packed day at Hagley Oval. By stumps the SKYCITY Northern Knights were well advanced in their second innings, the last of the match, requiring just 47 further runs with six wickets in hand to take the spoils from the Canterbury Wizards.
While stranger things have happened, with BJ Watling on the cusp of a half-century, the Knights are surely in the box seat. And - should Watling reach his milestone - he will become only the second player from either side in this frantic encounter to break 50, after the Wizards were rolled for 149 in their second effort earlier in the day.
At lunch the hosts had been in a relatively stable position, despite the ball moving at times viciously. Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls had navigated the Wizards from 64/4 to 102/4 - a lionesque partnership in the context of this game. Yet when Latham, who top-scored with 42, fell shortly after the break, they would lose their five remaining wickets for just 44 runs.
That set the Knights a chase of 214, but there was to be no quelling of the nerves for the visitors as BLACKCAPS Daniel Flynn and Kane Williamson each fell to Ryan McCone in the opening five overs of the reply, before tea. Veteran Joey Yovich proved a steadying influence, however, weathering a torrid hour and a half for his 45, while captain Brad Wilson, batting at four in this innings, hung in almost two hours for his 40.
They were crucial knocks and, following Wilson's demise as McCone's third victim, BJ Watling was equally assiduous as he picked his way to his overnight score of 48 and an unbeaten 43-run stand with James Marshall.
Day one: Wickets Clatter At Hagley Oval
A seemingly perilous decision by the Canterbury Wizards to bat first turned out to be justified on an opening day in which 20 wickets fell at Hagley Oval.
Dismissed for 172 in just under 53 overs, that decision had not looked so flash in the afternoon session, the SKYCITY Northern Knights having ripped through the hosts' late order after having them 92/4 at lunch.
Peter Fulton, who had been dropped in the slips off Anurag Verma, was the sole Cantabrian to pass 50, but was bowled by Brent Arnel shortly after the break. Arnel removed all four of the Wizards' front-end batsmen - three of them bowled, before coming back to claim Brent Findlay for his ninth career bag of five.
He had stolen the limelight from fellow senior pace bowler Graeme Aldridge, who had led the team out in his 100th first-class appearance. But Aldridge helped finish off the Wizards, on a hat-trick after dismissing Ryan McCone caught and bowled and then summarily bowling Tim Johnston to finish with a three-for.
The Wizards rapidly turned the tables in the tea session, however, quickly scything through the Knights' line-up, BLACKCAPS and all - James Marshall top-scoring with a meager 36. The visitors had also had to make do without an ill Daniel Flynn, whose eventual appearance at nine in the order proved too late to save them from being bundled out for 108 in fewer than 40 overs.
Matt McEwan, who had produced his highest first-class score with a useful unbeaten 27 batting at 11 for the Wizards, had added a maiden five-for; the Wizards somewhat remarkably set to open their day two account with a lead of 64.