Daryl Mitchell could be a dark horse for the Northern Districts © Getty Images
Daryl Mitchell could be a dark horse for the Northern Districts © Getty Images

It’s North vs South to begin the Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 with New Zealand’s Northern Districts taking on Sri Lanka’s Southern Express at Raipur. Abhijit Banare looks at the key battles to watch out for in the match.

Without Tillakaratne Dilshan the Southern Express seems to be a much weaker side as they open their CLT20 2014 qualifier campaign against Northern Districts. Though the Lankan T20 side features a few players who represent the national side, they seem to be weighing low against the Kiwi side. T20 is capable of springing up many surprises and this tournament could be no different. There will be some key contests between the international stars. Here are some clashes to watch out for in the first of the two matches today.

Kusal Perera vs Tim Southee: This is indeed going to be a mouthwatering clash. If there’s anything to be positive about the Express then it has to be this man. With the Sanath Jayasuriya-like batting style, Perera whacks the ball to all corners of the park. He will be up against an equally tricky customer in Tim Southee. The Kiwi quick is T20 specialist and was a key player in the Chennai Super Kings squad once. He relies on swing but has good accuracy for the T20s. It will be interesting to see how the seamer restricts such a free-flowing batsman. Whoever gets the upper-hand in this battle will inevitably swing the momentum in favour of their respective teams in this first match.

Daniel Flynn vs Farvez Maharoof: Flynn was the highest scorer in the HRV T20 Cup. The captain of the Districts will be opening the batting and looking to lead from the front. However, he will be up against an experienced T20 all-rounder in Farvez Maharoof.

Jehan Mubarak vs Trent Boult: The stand-in captain can be a tough customer to deal with. This Kiwi side is lucky to have two current national players to start from either ends. Jehan Mubarak usually bats at No 3 and can be as free-flowing as Perera. Boult will have the task get rid of the opposition captain along with Southee.

Kane Williamson vs Dilruwan Perera, Seekuge Prasanna: Williamson has already been earmarked as one of the finest young batsmen. He has been the lynchpin for New Zealand across formats and his side will be looking up to him to flourish. Subcontinent pitches allow spinners to restrict even if it doesn’t offer much turn. On the other hand, Williamson is an excellent player against spin. Earlier in the year, he gave a glimpse of his skills against spin in the home series against India where Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were found wanting. Williamson makes good use of his feet and will be a treat to watch him counter-attack the off-spinner (Perera) and leggie Seekugge Prasanna.

Apart from the above another darkhorse is Daryl Mitchell who can score briskly for the team. If the team loses early wickets then Mitchell will be the one to watch out for.

Complete coverage of Champions League T20 2014 here

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)