International stars vie for main stage
Match FactsSeptember 17, 2013
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
The first match of the qualifying round is significant for both teams because Faisalabad Wolves are making their Champions League debut, and Otago Volts, after failing to qualify for any of the previous editions since the inaugural tournament in 2009, get another crack. After some uncertainty as to whether Faisalabad would feature in the tournament, the first qualifier will go ahead as planned.
Faisalabad possess a number of key players who could help propel their campaign into the group stage. They are led by Misbah-ul-Haq, who has enjoyed a consistent run of good form in limited-overs cricket over the past eighteen months. They also have one of the most dangerous spinners in the game in Saeed Ajmal, whose personal performance will help determine how far Faisalabad progress in the tournament. Ehsan Adil and Asad Ali's limited international experience will hold them in good stead as they round off a decent bowling attack.
Otago come in as one of the tournament's surprise packages. Led by Derek de Boorder, the squad consists of a number of former and current international players. Brendon McCullum, whose T20 exploits are well known, is a key figure. With Ian Butler, Neil Wagner and Nathan McCullum as well, Otago have an attack that can compete against some of the more illustrious sides in the tournament. They will, however, be without their Netherlands allrounder, Ryan ten Doeschate, who is still tied up with commitments for Essex, at least for the first game.
Players to watch
Brendon McCullum will forever be associated with Twenty20 cricket. He smashed an unbeaten 158 in the inaugural match of the IPL in 2008, and an audacious 116* against a fiery Australian attack that included some scoops off the 150kph Shaun Tait. On his day, McCullum can take apart any international attack. The bowling partnership between Nick Beard and Jacob Duffy will also play a vital role as they tied for first on the wicket-takers' list at the HRV Cup - 15 each. How they fare on flatter Indian pitches will be an indicator of Otago's chances.
Asif Ali finished as the third leading run-scorer in the Faysal Bank Super Eight T20 Cup. He scored 152 runs in five innings at an average of 50.66 and strike rate of 129.91. In the tournament final, he was involved in a match-turning partnership with Misbah after Sialkot Stallions had reduced Faisalabad to 79 for 3 in the 13th over. The pair put on 79 in 46 balls, which proved the difference as Faisalabad won by 36 runs. Ali ended up getting his highest score of the tournament in that match, an unbeaten 70 off 49 balls.
Stats and Trivia
- Faisalabad's Ehsan Adil finished on top of the wicket-takers list in the Faysal Bank Super Eight T20 Cup this year with 12 scalps in five matches
- Otago Volts had won nine games on the trot in the HRV cup this season en route to qualifying for the Champions League
''All the teams have got players with X-factor. Our first concern is about the Wolves and Misbah-ul-Haq and one or two other internationals in their team."
Vaughn Johnson, the Otago Volts coach
"This is a positive sign. I think it will be the first step towards reviving Indo-Pak cricket, which is so cruelly suspended."
Faisalabad Wolves manager, Haroon Rasheed, sees the granting of visas as a welcome breakthrough in relations
Rohan Sharma is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo