The Northern Knights have won the New Zealand first-class competition for the eighth time. The Northern Districts Association first entered the New Zealand first-class scene in the 1956-57 season and won the Plunket Shield for the first time in 1962-63. Subsequently they have won the Shell Trophy four times - in 1979-80, 1991-92 (shared with the Central Stags), 1992-93 and 1999-00. They won the State Championship in 2006-07 and the re-instated Plunket Shield in 2009-10.
Although the Northern Knights won the Plunket Shield, it was the Central Stags that prevailed at Napier. The Stags won by 252 runs, their largest winning margin in terms of runs. Their previous largest was by 243 runs against the Firebirds, also at Nelson Park, just last season.
Craig Cachopa continued his amazing transformation as a batsman. Up until three matches ago he had played nineteen matches since his debut for Auckland in the 2004-05 season, scoring 533 runs at an average of 20.50. He then scored his maiden first-class century and has now scored 412 runs at an average of 82.40 in his last five innings. He has also scored a century in each of his last three matches.
Kieran Noema-Barnett scored his second century, both coming this season, and finished the match scoring one hundred and seventy four runs without being dismissed. He shared in century partnerships with Carl Cachopa in the first innings and Dylan Cleaver in the second.
Mathew Sinclair scored half-centuries in both innings to take his season aggregate to 809, the most by any player for the season. Sinclair has only once bettered this tally when he scored 904 runs in the 2008-09 season.
Tarun Nethula collected his third five wicket bag as he finished with five for 57 in the Knights second innings. It was his second five wicket bag for the season following his career-best 6 for 32 against Otago.
The Otago Volts gave Craig Cumming a farewell match to remember crushing the Wellington Firebirds by an innings. Cumming himself scored 56 and shared a century opening stand with Hamish Rutherford. He became just the third player after Bert Sutcliffe and Mathew Sinclair to pass eight thousand runs in domestic cricket. He also shared his forty sixth century partnership to leave him level with Sinclair, the most by any player in New Zealand domestic cricket.
Hamish Rutherford's innings of 239 was the highest for the Otago Volts against the Wellington Firebirds, passing his father Ken's previous best of 182 in the 1987-88 season. This is the first instance of father and son scoring double centuries in New Zealand first-class cricket with Ken having scored 317 for New Zealand against DB Close's XI at Scarborough in 1986 and 226 not out for Otago against the touring Indians in 1989-90.
Rutherford's batting has blossomed this season. Coming into this season he had scored just 131 runs at 11.90 in his six matches to date. He wasn't required by Otago until the last four matches of the season, but he still managed to finishthe Volts top scorer for the season with 607 runs at 86.71. This included the pair of centuries he scored against the Knights in his first match and the double century against the Firebirds to end his season. Craig Cumming might be leaving the first-class scene but his heir for the Volts has emerged.
Neil Wagner continued his love affair with the Wellington batsmen as he improved his best bowling figures to seven for 46, as the Firebirds were bundled out for 112. This surpassed his figures of seven for 96 achieved in the first match between these teams earlier in the season. In the previous match between these teams at the end of last season he took five wickets in five balls at Queenstown as he finished with what were his then best bowling figures of six for 36.
Wagner has now taken forty eight wickets against the Firebirds in just eight matches at an average of 20.33. In all his thirty four matches for the Volts he has 146 wickets at 26.60 so Wellington certainly are his favourite opposition. Wagner was the top wicket-taker for the second season in a row, finishing with forty six wickets at 26.32. He has now taken ninety seven wickets in the last two seasons at an average of 22.30.
Derek de Boorder recorded his first win as captain of the Volts, as well as scoring 92 and taking five catches in the Firebirds second innings. He also shared a Volts record sixth wicket partnership of 216 with Hamish Rutherford to remove the 165 added by Glenn Turner and Warren Lees in 1975-76, also against Wellington, from the record book. De Boorder finished with the most wicketkeeping dismissals for the season equalling Gareth Hopkins' Otago season record in the process. De Boorder totalled 38 dismissals with 36 catches and two stumpings.
Nathan McCullum claimed four wickets in the Firebirds second innings to take his tally for the Volts to one hundred and one. However he wasn't quite able to reach the two thousand run milestone, being nineteen runs short when dismissed for ten in his only innings.
There wasn't a lot for the Wellington Firebirds to cheer about and but for a last wicket partnership of sixty five in their second innings, the highest of the innings, the margin of defeat would have been significantly larger. Scott Kuggeleijn at number eleven scored a career-best 36 while Andy McKay was stranded on 34, two short of his career best.
Tim McIntosh started this season needing just 198 runs to pass Trevor Franklin as the top runscorer for the Auckland Aces. After seven matches he has scored just 182 runs and was dropped for Auckland's next two matches. However he was recalled to play the Canterbury Wizards against who he had an exemplary record having scored 1,344 runs at an average of exactly 56 including five centuries. He once again showed his liking for the Canterbury bowlers adding a double of 54 and 142 not out. In the process he became the ninth player to pass fifteen hundred runs for one team against another and took his tally in all matches for the Aces to 5,222 to comfortably pass Franklin's record.
McIntosh also made sixteen catches in the field to finish top catcher for the season. He also passed Jeff Crowe's Auckland record of fifteen catches in a season that had stood since 1990-91. Auckland batsmen have now scored eleven double-century partnerships against Canterbury, with three of them having been scored this season. Following on from the 211 he added with Martin Guptill at Rangiora earlier this season, Colin de Grandhomme joined up with Colin Munro to add 202 for the same wicket at Colin Maiden Park. Then in the Aces second innings Tim McIntosh and Anaru Kitchen combined to add 211 for the third wicket.
Interestingly the 202 added by de Grandhomme and Munro was the lowest partnership that hadn't been recorded by a New Zealand team in first-class cricket i.e. all first-class cricket in New Zealand and matches by New Zealand teams overseas. The lowest partnership which has yet to be recorded is now 230.