McCullum leads Otago to win over Wolves

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Brendon McCullum made a welcome return to form as he underlined his status as one of the leading Twenty20 batsmen with an unbeaten 83 to propel the Otogo Volts to an eight wicket victory over Faisalabad Wolves in Mohali.

Having endured an unproductive tour of England, Brendon McCullum made a welcome return to form as he underlined his status as one of the leading Twenty20 batsmen with an unbeaten 83 to propel the Otogo Volts to an eight wicket victory over Faisalabad Wolves in Mohali.

McCullum led the way by recording the highest score in a Champions League t20 qualifying match as the Volts strolled home to victory with two overs remaining in the opening game of the 2013 tournament.

Chasing just 140 for victory, the 31-year-old hard-hitting batsman bludgeoned 9 fours and two maximums and was ably supported by Hamish Rutherford (25) and Derek de Boorder (30*) as the New Zealanders took a significant step towards a maiden appearance in the group stages.

Despite losing opener Neil Broom in the opening over, Rutherford was determined to give his side the perfect start and stay ahead of the rate in what proved to be a straightforward run chase on a green-tinged surface.

The right-hander, who scored 171 on his Test debut, smashed three sixes off Asad Ali before perishing to Saeed Ajmal shortly after as he attempted to clear the ropes again. However, McCullum and de Boorder took up the mantle and ensured they maintained the momentum by putting on an unbeaten century partnership to ensure victory for their side.

McCullum played a vast array of shots, including some lusty blows and trademark shots, on his way to a thirty-third Twenty20 fifty as the Faisalabad spinners were dispatched to the fence at regular intervals.

Earlier, Faisalabad captain Misbah-ul-Haq played a lone role with the bat as the Pakistani debutants struggled to deal with the Volts' formidable pace attack. The 39-year-old top-scored with 46 and received little support as regular wickets fell at the other end, with Ian Butler, James McMillan and James Neesham all claiming two wickets apiece.

The Volts have spent the past fortnight in India preparing for the tournament, where they will be aiming to go one step further than their last appearance in 2009 and it showed as they made early inroads.

Openers Ammar Mahmood and Ali Waqas were both back in the hutch with single figures to their name, while Khurram Shehzad scratched around patiently for 27 before lofting Butler to mid-off.

Misbah added some much needed impetus to the innings to ensure his bowlers had something to defend but his departure in the 17th over signalled a late flurry of wickets as the Volts restricted their opponents to just 139/8 from their twenty overs.

And as expected, it proved to be too light as Otago ran out easy winners to put themselves within one victory of the lucrative group stages with two qualification games remaining while the Faisalabad Wolves face a do-or-die encounter tomorrow against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

<b>Ryan Bailey</b>

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