Kane Williamson © Getty images (File Photo)
Kane Williamson scored 52 in just 29 balls © Getty images (File Photo)

By Abhijit Banare

Sep 13, 2014

Kane Williamson’s 52 off 29 balls helped Northern Knights cruise to a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Southern Express in the first match of the Champions League T20 2014 (CLT20) at Raipur on Saturday.  The Knights had been set a target of 93. Given the context of the game, it was a target the Knights would’ve accepted.

It could’ve been well past 100 the way they started off. The Knights were looking nervous in the field and it reflected in their sloppy fielding. They dropped as many as four catches inside the first five overs. Gunathilaka was dropped twice in the same over. And Kusal Perera was much more lucky being dropped thrice.

The Knights began with Kane Williamson walking out ahead of skipper, opener Daniel Flynn. This made for a right-left opening combination with Anton Devcich being the left-hander. The Express skipper Jehan Mubarak was clever to not give away easy runs through pace like the Knights did. Like a typical subcontinent team, Express had spin options in Dilruwan Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna who started the innings from either ends. But the openers were up to the task with neat footwork and clearing the infield.

If there’s any batsmen in the Knights team adept against Sspin then it had to be Williamson. The Express continued with slower bowlers and he capitalised on them. Williamson picked 18 in five bowls in the third over of the chase. At 40 for no loss in three overs, this match was almost in their pocket.

They finally got in a pacer in Farveez Maharoof who dismissed Devcich. But the key batsman was Williamson who kept pushing the run-rate up with his fluent shots even against the pacers. When the bowlers took the pace off the bowl, Williamson was quick to adapt and slog them going down on his knees. At 66 for one in six overs and a required rate of less than seven it was all in place for the Knights.

Williamson’s innings was filled with sweetly-timed shots and excellent use of feet. He found the gaps in the field accurately. He got to his fifty in 28 balls with a boundary off Maharoof.

Earlier, the Express innings was set up by cameos from openers Kusal Perera (37) and Danushka Gunathilaka (39). The Jayasuriya-like Perera capitalised scoring at a brisk rate. The wristy flicks and pull shots reminded of the former Lankan legend. A run-rate of 10 was always on the cards with such a batsman on crease and the Express managed to keep up to the momentum. In six overs they had raced up to 55 with five reprieves. The only bright spot till then was a tight over from leggie Ish Sodhi bowling five dot balls.

Experienced pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee did well to fight back in the last two overs. But the pick of the bowlers actually was Ish Sodhi who bowled at the aggressive openers and gave away just 10 in his two overs.

With this win, the Knights are another victory away to cruise in to the main stage but they will be facing two formidable teams — Mumbai Indians and Lahore Lions.

Brief scores:

Southern Express 92 for 5 in 10 overs (Kusal Perera 37, Danushka Gunathilaka 39; Trent Boult 2 for 12) vs Northern Knights 96 for 3 in 9.3 overs (Kane Williamson 52; Farveez Maharoof 2 for 14) by 7 wickets.

Man of the Match: Kane Williamson

Full Scorecard

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)