RAIPUR
Northern Knights moved a step closer to the main draw of the 2014 Champions League Twenty20 by beating Southern Express by seven wickets in the opening match of the qualifiers at Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium in Raipur on Saturday. In a match reduced to 10 overs-a-side, Knights were set 93 to win, a target they chased down comfortably in 9.3 overs for the loss of three wickets with Kane Williamson scoring 52.
It was raining in Raipur during the day and due to the wet outfield, the toss was delayed by over two hours. The time lost resulted in the match being reduced to 10 overs-a-side.
Williamson was the chief architect of the win as he scored a 29-ball 52 powering the chase in humid conditions. Knights looked comfortable from the outset as their opening pair of Williamson and Anton Devcich set the tone with an opening stand of 41 in three overs. Considering how effective the slow bowlers were in the first part of the match, Express began their defence with two spinners - Dilruwan Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna. Perera bowled decently for seven runs in the first over. However, Prasanna gave a boundary and a six in the next, leaking 14 runs. Williamson then tore apart offie Danuskha Gunathilaka in the third for two boundaries and a six as the Knights raced away to 40 runs by the end of Powerplay.
Devcich (14) fell to experienced allrounder Farveez Maharoof in the fourth over but Williamson remained composed as he continued finding boundaries regularly. Captain Daniel Flynn walked in at No.3 and hit a six before top-edging Perera to depart for 14. Meanwhile, Williamson reached his fifth T20 half-century with a boundary off Maharoof before falling next delivery for a well made 52. By that time, his side were just seven behind the target and Daniel Harris (10 no) completed the formality with a boundary off Sachith Pathirana in the final over to seal the deal.
Earlier, Southern Express posted 92/4 with Danuskha Gunathilaka (39) and Kusal Perera (37) top scoring for them. Hoping to take advantage of the damp surface, Knights' skipper Daniel Flynn opted to bowl first in the rain-curtailed game, reduced to 10 overs-per-side. However, things didn't go as per plan for the Kiwis as Perera and some shoddy fielding from the New Zealand team helped the Lankans get off to a flier.
Boult leaked nine runs in the first over to Perera - the first an outside edge to third man. In the following over, by Tim Southee, Perera collected three more boundaries and survived a dropped catch at mid-on, taking the total from the over to 15. The run flow continued in the next as well before Scott Styris and spinner Ish Sodhi delivered consecutive tight overs allowing just seven in 12 deliveries. During that period, the Kiwis also put down three catches.
Perera finally fell to Styris after being caught at square leg after hitting seven boundaries for a 20-ball 37. Gunathilaka, who was playing second fiddle to Perera, came into his own after the fall of first wicket taking Anton Devcich to the cleaners in the eighth over. He hit the bearded left-arm spinner for two sixes and a four before Boult returned to bowl the penultimate over to remove him for 39. The New Zealand international bowled superbly to pick two wickets in the over while giving away just four runs, finishing with 2/12. Southee, who was expensive in his first over, came back strongly to pick two wickets in the final over in which Southern Express managed six runs.

Scoreboard

SOUTHERN EXPRESS:
K Perera c Boult b Styris    37
D Gunathilaka b Boult    39
S Prasanna run out    7
J Mubarak c Watling b Boult    1
A Perera c Devcich b Southee    1
M Maharoof not out    0
EXTRAS: (lb3, w4)    7
TOTAL: (5 wickets; 10 overs)    92
FOW: 1-55, 2-83, 3-85, 4-91, 5-92
BOWLING: T Boult 2-0-12-2, T Southee 2-0-20-1, S Kuggeleijn 1-0-11-0, S Styris 2-0-18-1, I Sodhi 2-0-10-0, A Devcich 1-0-18-0
NORTHERN DISTRICTS:
K Williamson b Maharoof    52
A Devcich c K Perera b Maharoof    14
D Flynn c D Perera b K Perera    14
D Harris not out    10
S Styris not out    4
EXTRAS: (lb1, w1)    2
TOTAL: (3 wickets; 9.3 overs)    96
FOW: 1-41, 2-74, 3-86
BOWLING: K Perera 2-0-11-1, S Prasanna 1-0-14-0, D Gunathilaka 1-0-19-0,  Maharoof 2-0-14-2, W Jayampathi 2-0-18-0, S Pathirana 1.3-0-19-0
TOSS: Northern Districts
MAN OF MATCH: K Williamson
UMPIRES: AK Chaudhary, C Shamshuddin
TV UMPIRE: K Srinath
MATCH REFEREE: R Jadeja