The Central Stags gave it an honest shake but ultimately came up short as Plunket Shield leaders Northern Districts banked another win today.
The Knights won the fifth round encounter at Gisborne by 65 runs after dismissing the Stags for 341 in their second innings on the final day, thanks to young left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult, who ended with five for 69.
That represented a commendable effort from the visitors at Harry Barker Reserve after they had slumped to 78 for four in pursuit of 407 late on the third day.
Veteran Mathew Sinclair and the obstinate Kruger van Wyk worked overtime to bring their side back into the equation as both scored defiant centuries during a Stags record fifth wicket partnership against the Knights of 227.
Resuming this morning on 40 and 30 respectively with the visitors on 138 for four, these two batted on and on after a delayed start.
But the Knights were finally rewarded for their patience when this country’s premier spinner Daniel Vettori broke through in his 20th over to remove van Wyk for 110, his sixth first-class century and his second for the Stags.
Van Wyk struck 13 fours in 254 minutes and as so often happens after such a large stand his dismissal was almost immediately followed by another wicket when 36-year-old Sinclair’s standout innings ended on 121 on the stroke of tea.
Sinclair’s 34th first-class century occupied 286 minutes and contained 16 boundaries before seamer Graeme Aldridge pierced his defences.
Brent Arnel dismissed Tarun Nethula and Bevan Small in quick succession early in the last session and the end seemed nigh until rain forced a break.
Thankfully for the Knights, the skies cleared and they captured the last two wickets required to seal the result and maintain their spot atop the standings through five rounds.
Boult snared Bevan Small just two balls after the resumption although it took another eight overs before he picked up his fifth wicket to end the game.
Watling scored his second half-century of the game at Gisborne’s Harry Barker Reserve to see his side through to 280 in their second innings.
That left the Stags requiring an unlikely 407 to win and by the close on the third and penultimate day the challenge had increased considerably as they lost four wickets in reaching 138.
Watling, who made 61 not out in the Knights’ first innings, spent a touch under three hours crafting an important 72 after his team lost early wickets after resuming at 114 for two.
The overnight pair of Brad Wilson and Hamish Marshall soon departed for 66 and 51 respectively before it was left to Watling, with help from Graeme Aldridge, to see the Stags a testing target.
These two enjoyed a seventh wicket partnership of 72, Aldridge’s share being 27 in 78 minutes before Watling was the last man dismissed after hitting 10 boundaries.
Nineteen-year-old medium-fast bowler Bevan Small was a thorn in the Knights’ side as he took four for 38 off 10.4 overs, while new Zimbabwe signing Kyle Jarvis captured three for 47 to mark his Stags debut with a match haul of eight wickets.
The Stags’ chase did not start well, with Ben Smith gone for five courtesy of left-armer Trent Boult and a promising second wicket stand was spiked by Aldridge when he had Jamie How caught for 32 by Daniel Flynn.
Boult then bowled Carl Cachopa for 20 and trapped Kieran Noema-Barnett leg before wicket for a duck before veteran Mathew Sinclair, with 40 not out in two hours, and Kruger van Wyk, with an unbeaten 30, put on an unbroken stand of 60 for the fifth wicket.