Southern Express (Sri Lanka) 92-5 (Kusal Perera 37, Danushka Gunathilaka 39, Ish Sodhi 0-10, Trent Boult 2-12) lost to the SKYCITY Northern Knights 96-3 (Kane Williamson 52, Daniel Flynn 14, Anton Devcich 14) by seven wickets.
Man of the match Kane Williamson's superb 52 from 29 balls lead the SKYCITY Northern Knights to a seven wicket win in their Champions League T20 opener. A long ground delay reduced the match to a 10 over per side contest, and despite a nervous performance in the field, the Knights secured the win with three balls to spare.
Chasing 93 to win, openers Anton Devcich and Kane Williamson found the boundary early with some fine strokes and quickly matched the ten runs per over asking rate before Devcich went for 14 from 7 trying to paddle Farveez Maharoof around the corner. Daniel Flynn joined Williamson, who was in complete control, using his finesse and some power to lead the charge.
With four overs left the chase was just over a run a ball with Flynn starting to hit powerful boundaries of his own, before being caught behind for 14 from 11 from the first ball of the eighth over. Williamson bought up his 50 with a scoop to fine leg in the ninth, but he was bowled next ball for 52 from 29. Daniel Harris and Scott Styris calmly chased down the runs remaining with three balls to spare, sealing the seven wicket win.
"It was nice to contribute like that," says Williamson. "A 'Ten10' game like that can be fickle so it was nice to hit a few out of the middle and put together partnerships with all the blokes that came in. There were a few nerves going into the first game so hopefully they're ironed out and we can play with freedom and confidence, like we do when we play our best."
In the first innings, Kusal Perera put the bowlers under pressure immediately, taking multiple boundaries from opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee. There were some nerves in the field with Scott Kuggeleijn unable to hang on to a Perera chance from the 12th ball of the innings, the first of six dropped catches, before Styris removed Perera for 37 from 20, caught by Boult on the rope.
Ish Sodhi was extremely tight under the circumstances, conceding just 10 runs from his two overs. Devcich conceded 18 from his only over, but Boult came back to bowl Danushka Gunathilaka for 39 from 26, and pick up Jehan Mubarak, caught by Watling for one run in a terrific ninth over. Southee conceded just six from the last over, picking up Angelo Perera for one, before Seekkuge Prasanna was run out from the last ball to end the innings at 92-5.
The SKYCITY Northern Knights will be all but assured of qualification for the main draw with a further win from their next two qualifying games. They're back in action against the Lahore Lions, beginning at 10.30pm NZ time tonight.