The Northern Knights from New Zealand trounced the Southern Express from Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the opening match of the Oppo CLT20 2014 Qualifiers. After mid-afternoon showers forced start of the match to be delayed and the contest to be rescheduled to a 10-overs affair, the Northern Knights, put their opponents in after their captain won the toss, restricted them to 92 for 5 and then chased down the runs with three balls remaining in the final over. (Also Read: MATCH REPORT: Q2 – MUMBAI INDIANS V LAHORE LIONS)
Needing to chase at just over nine runs an over, the Northern Knights were quick off the blocks, racing to 41 in three overs. Kane Williamson got stuck into Danushka Gunatilake in the third over of the run-chase, hitting two boundaries and a six in an over that realized 19 runs. The other opener, Anton Devcich, perished off the first ball of the fourth over when he miscued a slower delivery from Farvees Maharoof and picked out Dilruwan Perera at short fine leg; he made 14 from eight balls.
Williamson continued to be severe on the bowlers, picking boundaries regularly before perishing with his team on the brink of victory. The only player to score a half-century in the match, Williamson’s 52 came off 29 balls and contained seven boundaries and a six. Daniel Flynn (14) and Daniel Harris (10*) were the other notable contributors in the run-chase. The Northern Knights sealed the seven-wicket win off the third ball of the final over when Harris slashed a Sachith Pathirana delivery to the point fence.
For Southern Express, Maharoof was the most successful bowler picking up two wickets, while Dilruwan Perera picked up one wicket.
"Earlier in the evening The Southern Express openers got their first runs on the board in cheeky fashion when Kusal Perera edged one past the wicket-keeper. The left-hander chanced his arm on the day and saw his team off to a brisk start, dominating the 55-run opening partnership with Danushka Gunatilake. The pair, who enjoyed the largesse of the Northern Knights fielders who grassed as many as six catches (including three off successive deliveries in Ish Sodhi's first over), was separated in the sixth over when Trent Boult held on to an opportunity offered by Perera. Perera made 37 off 20 balls.
Gunatilake, who had scored at less than a run-a-ball when Perera was going all guns blazing, accelerated soon after his opening partner’s dismissal, scoring 24 runs in the following 10 balls before becoming Boult's first victim of the evening. He made 39 from 26 balls and hit two fours and three sixes. The loss of four wickets in the final two overs deprived Southern Express momentum at the end, but the start by the openers meant they finished with a respectable 92 for 5. Boult, Tim Southee and Scott Styris were the wicket-takers for the Northern Knights, while Ish Sodhi was impressive too, conceding only 10 runs in his two overs.
Northern Knights win by 7 wickets
Brief Scores: Southern Express 92-5 in 10.0 overs (Kusal Perera 37, Danushka Gunatilake 39, Trent Boult 2-12) lost to Northern Knights 96-3 in 9.3 overs (Kane Williamson 52, Farvees Maharoof 2-14)
Man of the Match: Kane Williamson, for his match-winning 52 in the run-chase.
Flynn: "We haven't had any practice games, which has been unfortunate with the weather, but we've managed to get the right result. It's a fantastic event, and it's great to be a part of it. We've got a couple of tough games coming up, so we'll go away and prepare for those."
Mubarak: "It would have been good if Kusal had kicked on after his start. None of the new batsmen found it easy to get going. 92 was probably below par, and over the next couple of matches, we need to finish our innings better."