Hyderabad: The Lahore Lions have fought their way through a tough qualifying tournament while the Kolkata Knight Riders have walked into the Oppo Champions League by virtue of being IPL champions. However, there are no favourites in a Twenty20 game as KKR coach Trevor Bayliss said ahead of their Group ‘A’ game on Sunday night. “I suppose the Pakistani team is a little bit of an unknown quantity to most of the other teams here. They’ve got a few international players we would know of. But I don’t think there are any favourites in a T20 competition. One or two guys in each of your teams have a good day and you can win the match,” Bayliss said on match eve.
Lions leader and former Pakistan captain Mohammed Hafeez concurred. “There’s nothing big about facing a team like KKR, all are champion sides here,” he said, adding “We played good cricket in the qualifiers and have the momentum. We are a confident team who are looking forward. Everyone is excited to perform well in the main draw. If we play well we can beat anyone.”
Hafeez also played down the India-Pakistan angle to the match. “We are looking at KKR only as a regional team even as it has big names. We don’t have any overseas players and there are seven or eight from our team playing for the first time in CL T20. It is a big moment for them. It’s always good to play in India and great to perform here,” he said.
The Lions would once again depend on in-form opener Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed for a racy start while Mohammed Hafeez, Saad Nasim and Umar Akmal provide solidity in the middleorder.
Right and left-handed mediumpacers Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz give the Lions variety with the new ball while off-spinners Adnan Rassol and Hafeez himself will be in charge of the spin department. “We’ve got a good bowling attack and depth in batting. We promise to get the crowd excited,” Hafeez said.
KKR may have had their top half blown off for a mere 50 before a late charge by Russell and Ryan ten Doeschate saw them through against CSK in the previous game, but Bayliss isn’t very worried. “Our top-order has performed extremely well in the past and that’s part of the reason we won the IPL. So there’s no need to panic just yet. I’m sure they’ll put their heads down and score runs pretty soon,” he said.
“The one thing that stood out for me the other night was that the players who have been playing cricket regularly in the recent past the Indian boys in England and some of the boys in the opposition. Ten Doeschate, who has been playing in England, and Russell in the West Indies team I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they were the ones who looked like scoring runs the other night. “Hopefully we get a couple of games under our belt and we’ll start to play well,” Bayliss felt.