The Stags are top of the table after half a round two match in New Plymouth, but not without some cost after watching their BLACKCAPS star Doug Bracewell go down with a wrenched knee in the outfield.
Scans will reveal the extent of the injury, but it was a gutting moment for the team as they took on the combative Knights in fresh conditions. A showery build-up had presented a green deck and, when Stags captain Will Young won his second toss on the trot, there was no hesitation in bowling first in the Saturday night spectacle.
Dean Brownlie dodged falling to Ben Wheeler in the very first over as he edged a four just centimetres over the slips, but — getting shape from the outset — Seth Rance broke through twice in the space of three balls to put both Joe Carter and scoreless Aussie import Nathan Reardon back in the sheds in over two.
It set up a delicious battle as dangerous Brownlie looked to restore order with his punishing strokemaking while the likes of Rance, Bracewell and Marty Kain looked to pin him down — Bracewell keeping it lean, six runs off his first over and just two singles off his second before the wretched moment in the deep.
The Stags had already taken a prematch hit, losing Jesse Ryder as a late scratching to a calf twinge, but their attack rallied after seeing Bracewell limp away as well.
George Worker combined with fellow tweaker Kain around the three-quarter mark and was frustrated at two caught and bowleds — unfortunately off a no ball and then a free hit, meaning neither stinging grab counted in the quest to dismiss Daryl Mitchell. But he was tidy at a crucial moment, going at just RPO 4.5 off his four overs.
Kain had suffered Brownlie’s worst belligerence, who had punched him into the stands twice in the ninth over before a dicey single proved Brownlie’s undoing as he lost his bat en route and Kain threw himself and the ball into the stumps to claim a standout runout. The fieldsman had been skipper Young, and it was the same combo that had gotten rid of Corey Anderson after the booming star put up a high catch to end a promising rebuild with Brownlie at 48/3. Now Brownlie was gone for a 31-ball 43, and the Stags had a golden opportunity to close out after the one-man bomb squad Tim Seifert swung and missed against Ben Wheeler on 11.
Daryl Mitchell kept the Knights in the mix, hitting a sublime six in his 34 as they got from 89/5 to 128/6 in a first innings that went the full 20 overs despite a start delayed by half an hour and a shower that almost stopped play before the last over.
Rance was rewarded with 3-30 for hitting his targets, but a tantalising chase to entertain the loyal gallery and young faces in the main stand was done in by an untimely sweep of rain at the innings break, the match called off when it was apparent the outfield could not be dried in time for a resumption of play.
With points shared and both sides unbeaten, the Stags now head to the opposite coast to host the Otago Volts in Napier on Friday, while the Knights meanwhile travel to Dunedin to play the same southern foe this Wednesday.