Champions League T20 2012 October 14, 2012

Dogged Auckland have potential to surprise


Auckland Aces may be one of the smallest fish in the Champions League T20 and the side that has traveled the furthest to compete, but as Sialkot and Hampshire discovered in the qualifiers, their bite can be just as fearsome as that of the bigger predators around. Auckland had failed to qualify for the Champions League main event in 2011, but have turned the disappointment of that failure into determination. They arrived in South Africa two weeks before the qualifying round to acclimatise and prepare after a wet New Zealand winter, and two emphatic victories first up suggests the extra investment was a worthwhile one.

Auckland have the advantage of not having to surrender any of their best players to the IPL sides, and the explosive top order that was the bedrock of their HRV Cup success has already shown glimpses of form in South Africa. In Martin Guptill and Azhar Mahmood, Auckland have two of the more under-rated strikers of the ball, and although Lou Vincent only played a limited role in the HRV Cup because of injury, he has been a vital cog in the Auckland machine for years. Colin Munro, Anaru Kitchen and Colin de Grandhomme also pack plenty of firepower through the middle, with de Grandhomme having been elevated to the international Twenty20 side after he showcased a zest for finishing powerfully in the domestic competition.

The bowling is spearheaded by Kyle Mills, and though it is not an attack that will daunt their Champions League opposition, it has the variety to expose an array of flaws. Left armer Michael Bates made a name for himself as a death-bowling specialist, but proved penetrative at the top of the innings in the last HRV cup, while Mills and Andre Adams have enough experience between them to defuse most crises. Azhar Mahmood is another steady seam option, and Ronnie Hira provides miserly left-arm spin as well. Like de Grandhomme, both Bates and Hira also earned international call-ups on the back of their HRV Cup performances. The bowling is supported superlatively in the field, and Auckland can claim to be among the best domestic fielding sides in the world.

How they qualified

Auckland won eight of the ten matches they played in the HRV Cup, and were effectively frontrunners for the entire competition. They had lost their last round-robin game to Canterbury, but regrouped beautifully to bury the same team by 44 runs in a one-sided final.

Key player

Martin Guptill was the HRV Cup's top runscorer, and he carried that form into New Zealand's home summer, in which he made five international fifties in a row. Brutal down the ground and almost as quick to dispatch short bowling, Auckland will almost invariably be competitive when he has a good day. He does tend to fall over to the offside, making him a candidate for LBWs on seaming pitches, but Auckland will expect him to overcome that weakness and provide the fillips they have grown accustomed to from him at the beginning of the innings.

Surprise package

Ronnie Hira's forte is his parsimony, but he topped the wicket-taker's list in the HRV Cup with 14 scalps - most of which came when batsmen looked to attack him. He can also sustain a good strike rate over short bursts, and is one of the best fielders in a side littered with quick movers.


Auckland's batsmen have flourished against pace, but with precious little high quality spin going around in New Zealand's domestic circuit, oppositions may want to test them with slow bowling early in their innings. The middle order in particular is limited in its range of strokes, and if spinners can force the batsmen to hit to less-favoured parts of the ground, they may expose flaws in their techniques.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • subra on October 15, 2012, 18:17 GMT

    I think if there is a 5th slot then They could have taken Saquib .Otherwise Lee is always a better player with Ball and bat some days. About L Balaji He is going through a very bad form-he should not be continuing as he is gifting 18 runs easily on many overs . Azar Mahmood is a good player he must be laughing as all the other Pak players seeing the bad plight of the Indian Players including the great Tendulkar who is nothing but a shadow of himself.What he is going to achieve by playing this tournament-why not they give a chnace to a new comer another Tendulkar may come..Regarding Indian bowlers let them seek for more and more new ball bowlers as the present Indian bolwers are coming next to total failure on many occasions.They needa new back up bowlers -like Aussies and Pakistanies.Do we have any chnace get two or three good bowlers aprt from the regular below par bowlers

  • Francois on October 15, 2012, 14:05 GMT

    The indian teams are over hyped and it time for the kiwis to show some grit, the conditions should favour them

  • dave on October 15, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    Predicting Mills to pick up wickets and Vincent to pick up runs. McCullum to go big or out. AA looked very tidy as a team in the prelims so KKR will need to stay awake. Cpt Meanster -- its sad to be so young and so cynical -ha - but then cynics are often right.

  • Tamim on October 15, 2012, 12:58 GMT

    Without Sakib impossible to comeback KKR. Team management should mind it that sakib was playing a good score against pakistan (World best bowling side). Another is Newzeland cricketer's are always weak against spin. So that its important to add a spin bowler.

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    Auckland will win this one through guts and teamwork. Kkr just rely on their overseas imports and if a genuine domestic side would not even make it into this competition. Kkr trying to buy their wins. Aa trying to play better cricket

  • Ajith Prasad on October 15, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    It's predictably awkward to see Indian IPL players going clueless against bounce and carry of even first class level bowlers. At the moment, Indian teams participating here doesn't have a single good Indian batsman that can play under testing conditions... Apart from Unmukt Chand may be...

  • Sudhir on October 15, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    KKR will walk over Auckland

  • jayaesh on October 15, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    Keep your chin up Cpt.Meanster, i know you are an IPL and India supporter through thick and thin. Give Indian players some time and they will rise, afterall didn't our u-19 team won the WC in tougher conditions with 50 overs to face.Yes we play better in home conditions but sure the can adapt which they have done in the past to be no.i in tests and odi's.BTW most of the professional franchises are manufactured for eg- MAN C,PSG but that didn't stop Man C from winning EPL.... but do feel IPL teams need to play together more than just 50 days of IPL , why can't they replace some of our inept state associations and play even 50 over cricket !!!! @WickyRoy.paklover when will you give an unprejudiced view of Indian cricket or will you continue the hating ??

  • Dummy4 on October 15, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    Auckland Aces is a surprise package for CL T20 2012, as we had T&T in previous editions... very simple, if Azhar Mehmood & Guptill click, they can won any of the match then.

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    NZ & anyone playing Australia!

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