Raipur: Spirited New Zealand side Northern Knights, who upstaged a star-studded Mumbai Indians in the qualifiers, will come face to face with one of the favourites to lift the title, South Africa's Cape Cobras, in their opening Group B tie of the Champions League T20 here on friday.
Cape Cobras, who were last seen in CLT20 back in 2009 when they reached the semifinals, are one of the strongest sides in the tournament but have been dealt a massive injury blow just at the start of the event.
Their top batsman J P Duminy has been ruled out due to injury and that would cause a huge vacuum in the side given that he was among the side's few players who have the experience of playing in India.
Northern Knights, on the other hand, are buoyant after finishing their qualifying engagements unbeaten. The star of their campaign was Kane Williamson and the young batsman's role would become even more crucial in the main tournament.
For Cobras, the challenge would be to adapt to the conditions.
"It is about how we deal with the pressure and how we gel as a team. Many members of the team have played a lot of cricket, but not necessarily the T20 format," captain Justin Ontong has stated.
Even without Duminy, Cobras have a decent line-up boasting of the experienced Hashim Amla, Ontong himself and Robin Peterson.
Pacers Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt would be spearheading the bowling attack. For the Knights, Williamson aside, a lot would also be expected of veteran all-rounder Scott Styris, B J Watling and skipper David Flynn.
Pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee would be their bowling mainstays.
Cape Cobras: Justin Ontong (capt), Hashim Amla, Justin Kemp, Rory Kleinveldt, Charl Langeveldt, Richard Levi, Aviwe Mgijima, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Zakhele Qwabe, Omphile Ramela, Stiaan Van Zyl, Dane Vilas.
Northern Knights: Daniel Flynn (capt), Graeme Aldridge, Jono Boult, Trent Boult, Anton Devcich, Daniel Harris, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson, Brad Wilson.