An unbeaten streak in the qualifying round and a thumping win over Cape Cobras have helped Northern Knights establish themselves as early favourites in this year’s competition. Built on solid top-order performances and an accurate new-ball attack, Knights have decimated opposition teams with regularity and their next game against Hobart Hurricanes gives the New Zealand side a chance to draw level with Kings XI Punjab at the top of Group B, helped by an impressive net run rate. The match is more crucial for Hurricanes, who have played one game more than Knights, and a loss here could reduce their chances of staying in the race for a semi-final spot.
While Knights have moved confidently from one win to another, Hurricanes, the 2013-14 Big Bash League finalists, struggled to find their ground against Kings XI and were in a precarious position against Cape Cobras before Aiden Blizzard swung the match their way. Their middle order looks a little shaky and they need to overcome the tendency of losing quick wickets after a substantial stand. Hurricanes also need batsmen like Travis Birt and Shoaib Malik to step up against a Knights attack led by Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Both sides have not relied too much on spin but the slower bowlers could come into the game to control two attacking line-ups. Ish Sodhi has done reasonably well in his role as the Knights’ lead spinner, while Hurricanes have switched between Xavier Doherty, Cameron Boyce and Shoaib Malik as their spin options. Doherty and Malik, two of only three Hurricanes bowlers to have economy rates under eight, will play key roles for the side again.
Northern Knights WWWWW (most recent first, completed matches only)
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The Knights opening pair – Anton Devcich and Kane Williamson – has played a key role in the side’s success. They have opened in just five games so far – of which four are in this Champions League – but are already second on the list of the most successful opening partnerships for Knights. In these five games, they have added 284 runs at 56.80. While Williamson’s form has stolen the attention, Devcich has also played a couple of steady knocks at the start.
Ben Laughlin was one of the key performers for Hurricanes during the Big Bash League and has continued to take on the bulk of the responsibility for the side again in the tournament. While the wickets have been split between Doug Bollinger, Laughlin and Ben Hilfenhaus, Laughlin has emerged the most economical of the three fast bowlers.
Stats and trivia
- Williamson’s hundred against Cape Cobras was the second fastest by a batsman playing for a New Zealand team. Jamie How’s hundred against Wellington in January 2012 came off 48 balls.
- Boult is second on the list of most economical bowlers in the tournament so far with an economy rate of 4.41. Sunil Narine tops the list with 2.25 runs an over.
- Blizzard has scored four fifties in the T20 format, including the one against Cobras. He has never taken more than 40 balls to reach the 50-run mark.
“We know what they can do and in the four games so far, the way they’ve swung the ball and bowled aggressively has been huge for us.”
Northern Knights’ Kane Williamson acknowledges the role of the side’s bowlers in their Champions League victories
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