Northern Knights 96 for 3 (Williamson 52, Maharoof 2-14) beat Southern Express 92 for 5 (Gunathilaka 39, Kusal 37, Boult 2-12) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
An unflustered Kane Williamson propelled Northern Knights to a convincing seven-wicket win, chasing down Southern Express' 92 in the rain-hit Champions League T20 opener in Raipur. Williamson's 52 off 29 kept Knights on track throughout the chase, after the match was reduced to 10-overs-per-side. That Express managed a defendable score came mainly down to their openers, but Williamson's fifty and cameos from the rest of Knights' top order made sure they were never in trouble.
Most of the runs in this game came courtesy the openers of both sides, who hit 142 of the 188 runs scored - 76 from the Express openers and 66 from the Knights'. And only one four was scored by a batsman who did not open the innings - the winning runs from Daniel Harris, with three balls to spare.
Express decided to open the bowling with spinners hoping to trouble the New Zealand side but Williamson found the gaps by using his feet against them, while Anton Devcich rotated the strike regularly and struck a four and six in the first two overs. Williamson targeted Danushka Gunathilaka in the third over, caressing one four through the covers, sweeping one on the leg side, and lofting one over long-on for six, which helped them charge to 40 for 0 after three overs.
Express then brought in pacer Farveez Maharoof who dismissed Devich for 14. When they brought on a pacer from the other end too, Charith Jayampathi, Williamson carted him on both sides of the pitch for two fours. When Jehan Mubarak brought in Sachith Pathirana for Maharoof, the Knights batsmen scored 12 in the over, which brought the equation down to 27 off 24. Even though Knights lost two more wickets from there, including Williamson's in the penultimate over, the chase was virtually over by then.
When Express were put in to bat, Kusal Perera launched second ball itself, smashing boundaries with swats and slogs, and minimal footwork. He collected five fours in the first 11 balls and nearly got out on the 12th when Scott Kuggeleijn ran to his right from mid-on but failed to grab on to a catch despite getting there on time. That was the first of many drops from Knights.
After Express scored 35 in the Powerplay, Scott Styris came in attempting to curb the run rate. But wicketkeeper BJ Watling dropped Kusal on the last ball of Styris' over, put down Gunathilaka off Ish Sodhi three balls later, and then Sodhi himself put down a return catch. Two more catches went through the fielders' hands in the sixth over on the leg side, and the attempts conceded a six and a four. Kusal had raced to 37 off 19 by then and when he struck another one in the air on the leg side off the next ball, Trent Boult finally caught him at the deep square-leg boundary.
Gunathilaka had a scratchy start, especially against Sodhi, who gave only one run in the fifth over. But Gunathilaka broke the shackles by clobbering part-timer Devcich for two fours and a six in the eighth over to drive them to 82 after eight overs. Knights' strike bowlers Boult and Tim Southee stalled the run rate in the last two overs, though, conceding only 10 runs while Express lost four wickets to score 92, which didn't prove to be enough.