Kyle Mills sets up Auckland's crushing win
Auckland Aces 136 for 4 (Guptill 40) beat Sialkot Stallions 130 for 9 (Yousuf 39, Mills 2-6) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sialkot Stallions entered their maiden Champions League T20 with an awe-inspiring domestic record. They had won Pakistan's Twenty20 competition seven out of nine times and possess a world-record winning streak of 25 matches. However, on a Wanderers pitch that bounced and seamed, they were undone by Auckland Aces' pace attack and their own desire to swing with abandon.
The predominant features of Sialkot's innings were batsmen playing and missing and an abundance of dot balls; their attempts at counter-attacking were short lived. Their batsmen cleared the Wanderers' boundaries ten times but managed to score only 130. It was the third-lowest total for an innings that contained ten sixes; the first two were chases in which the target was easily achieved.
The target was well below par and Auckland's openers, Martin Guptill and Lou Vincent, handled the bounce better than their counterparts did. The opening stand of 32 put the chase on course and the second-wicket stand of 51 between Guptill and Azhar Mahmood gave them an opportunity to win with a high net run-rate. They lost a couple of wickets in quick succession but New Zealand's domestic champions managed to get home with 17 balls to spare.
Gareth Hopkins, the Auckland captain, got what he wanted despite losing the toss, and Kyle Mills and Michael Bates made excellent use of the conditions. On a green-tinged pitch, the right and left-arm combination harried the Sialkot openers with short-of-a-length deliveries. After Imran Nazir was smacked painfully on the glove, Shakeel Ansar attempted a big hit in Bates' first over and holed out to mid-on. The No. 3 batsman Haris Sohail took 12 deliveries to get off the mark, before Nazir ended two consecutive maiden overs by pulling Bates over the fine-leg boundary.
There were 24 dot balls in the first five overs, after which Sialkot were 11 for 1. Mills' figures were 3-1-4-0. The sixth went for plenty. Mahmood's length was poor and Sohail hit him for two sixes in an over that cost Auckland 18. Both Sohail and Nazir, however, were caught at point attempting aggressive shots in successive overs, leaving Sialkot 30 for 3.
Shahid Yousuf was Sialkot's best chance at recovery and he hit Andre Adams, bowling extremely quick for a five-step run-up, for consecutive sixes in the ninth over. In the next, Yousuf took two fours off Colin Munro's only over. At the other end, however, Shoaib Malik was struggling, scoring only 3 off his first 11 deliveries.
Yousuf was reprieved twice off Ronnie Hira - Hopkins failed to collect and stump the batsmen - before the spinner took a catch off his own bowling to stunt the Sialkot recovery. Malik's innings ended via a catch at long-off and Sialkot slumped to 97 for 6 before the tail got stuck into Hira's final over, the 18th. Naved-ul-Hasan and Ali Khan took 21 runs off it. Mills, however, returned to clamp down on Sialkot once again. His last over went for only two runs and he finished with figures of 4-1-6-2.
Faced with a middling target, Auckland began the chase aggressively. Vincent charged, pulled and slashed to provide the early propulsion. He was beaten often as well, but managed 20 off 16 balls before being caught at third man on the cut. Guptill began at around run a ball and steered Auckland through the first half of the chase. His only six came in the tenth over, a 98 metre blow over long-on, and he was out in the next, pulling powerfully to the fielder on the midwicket boundary.
Then followed Auckland's most tentative phase, as Mahmood and Colin de Grandhomme were dismissed in the space of four balls by Sarfraz Ahmed, a left-arm bowler who delivers off the right foot but well after his front foot as landed. The asking-rate, however, was never an issue and Anaru Kitchen and Colin Munro hacked at the equation with a series of powerful blows to accelerate the finish.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo