RCB to face NSW Blues to enter CLT20 final
The Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on the New South Wales Blues in the first semi final of the 2011 Champions League T20 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Friday night.
RCB's CLT20 silverware hopes were dashed last year in the semifinal against eventual champions Chennai Super Kings when a cruel injury to Dale Steyn and an unstoppable Raina put them out of the competition. Their competitors this year will be no easier an opposition; they are the 2009 CLT20 champions after all.
New South Wales entered the semifinals confidently, regrouping after an unsure start to their campaign which began with a loss against the Cape Cobras. They fought for survival off every ball of their next game which was against Trinidad & Tobago, before walloping them in the super over. They faltered briefly in a tricky chase against Mumbai Indians before recovering to comfortably seal the game and hammered CSK in their last game to top Group A.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore had it harder; the first match was heartbreak for them, going to the Warriors off the last ball of the game and they were completely outplayed by Kolkata Knight Riders in the second one. They came back with a big bang in the next game to defeat Somerset with a large margin and then dramatically chased down 214 against South Australia Redbacks in a virtual quarter final to be the runners up in Group B on the basis of Net Run Rate.
The clash will feature two dream T20 opening combinations set against each other, Warner and Watson facing off against Gayle and Dilshan. Only Watson hasn’t had a substantial innings so far in the tournament and he may want to set that right in the semi final but bowlers from both sides are sure to have plans in place for the opening batsmen of the opposition leaving the real fight to be fought by the middle orders of the respective sides.
For NSW, Steve Smith has been consistent with Katich, Henriques and Rohrer providing support. Rohrer hasn’t exactly delivered on his reputation of being a big hitter while Katich is tad too slow coming in at no. 4 but have both contributed vital runs in this tournament. For RCB, Agarawal and Tiwary have provided impetus in the middle overs but neither has been able to sustain it for longer periods. On his day, like against the Redbacks, Kohli can match NSW’s middle order but RCB would be stronger if the support from Tiwary and Agarawal weren’t as dodgy. Arun Karthik, Vettori and Bhatkal have slogged them out of trouble but cannot be counted upon to do it more regularly and for a prolonged period.
Daniel Vettori has been the saving grace of RCB’s bowling, Syed Mohammad coming in a distant second. His frontline bowlers Nannes and Aravind especially have swung wildly in their performances, Rajoo Bhatkal has been tight but wicketless and his part time bowlers have backfired spectacularly on him, leaving him to do the bulk of the defending and wicket taking. RCB is most likely to play the XI given the lack of options on the bench.
NSW on the other hand have the very fast Pat Cummins, the very wise Stuart Clark and the very wily Steve O’Keefe with decent support from Moises Henriques, Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith for a bowling attack. How fast the bowlers adjust to the pace on the Chinnaswamy track compared to the slow Chepauk one in Chennai will decide how well they do. An ambush by Gayle and Dilshan could straight away take away their hopes of another win and put RCB on course for their first silverware.
RCB became the first IPL team to beat an Australian team in the CLT20 on Wednesday night when they beat the Redbacks. On Friday night they will want to prove that it was no fluke.