After witnessing some nerve-wrangling finishes in the last few games of the group matches, the Champions League Twenty20 is now ready to enter the knock out phase, where all four teams will vie to pack a punch against their opponents and dump them out of the tournament.
There is no doubt that the last-ball thriller on Wednesday, when the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s wicketkeeper batsman ArunKarthik smashed a six off Redbacks’ Daniel Christian, would have spurred the IPL side to end their CLT20 campaign with a bang.
But they will be up against an extremely fit and a balanced Australian outfit, the New South Wales Blues. The Blues have players of extreme caliber from top to bottom. We all knew and had once again witnessed on Tuesday what David Warner can bring to the game – sheer power hitting.
He may not be as strong as Jamaica's Chris Gayle, but the power he generates while clearing the fence is phenomenal. The presence of the two fearsome hitters of the game will spare us from having a single dull moment on Friday.
TillakaratneDilshan made amends for his average performance early on in the tournament by hitting a whirlwind fifty against the Redbacks. But the Blues’ other opener Shane Watson is well capable of matching the Sri Lankan shot-for-shot.
Talented youngsters – Virat Kohli and Steven Smith – have already played key roles to help their side reach this far, and they well could be waiting for an opportunity such as this to take their performances to the next level.
But as we move down the batting order, the Blues seem to be holding the edge against their Indian counterpart. The Australian side’s middle-order boasts of versatile and more experienced players like Moises Henriques and Daniel Smith. While Henriques has showed his worth in the side with both bat and ball, Smith has been fluent behind the stumps.
On the other hand, RCB have a light-weight look to their middle-order, with Saurabh Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal making up the numbers. Tiwary did well in his stint with Mumbai Indians until last year, however he could not get into the groove with his new franchise. Agarwal, who has more often opened the batting for the club, is still coming to grips with his new role in the batting line-up.
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs New South Wales(RCB vs NSW), October 7, Bangalore
Start time 20:00 (14:30 GMT, 8 PM IST)
Both the teams are on winning streaks. Ideally it should mean no changes to the XIs, but both have two places to debate.
Stuart Clark's cutters were always going to be effective on the slow Chennai track, but can NSW risk his medium pace on this quick pitch with short boundaries? Nathan Hauritz, though, could be just as big a risk. Will they punt on the young Josh Hazlewood who has played just three Twenty20s? Another slightly adventurous move could be to bring in Philip Hughes at the expense of Daniel Smith. Hughes was a wicketkeeper-batsman at beginner levels, but this might be too left-field for a big match.
The Royal Challengers have S Aravind to be worried about. On Wednesday he was given shows of trust after shows of trust despite the presence of such part-time bowlers as Gayle and Dilshan. He went for 69 in four overs. Abhimanyu Mithun could be a direct replacement. They also need to get a decent contribution from the middle order. With Saurabh Tiwary struggling, it's almost as if it's the top three, a hole, and then Vettori. They can't really manufacture a valuable batsman at this deep end of the tournament, and might still go for the big, albeit unreliable, hitting of the likes of Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal ahead of Mohammad Kaif's slower reliability and better fielding.
Stats and trivia
- The Royal Challenger's win over South Australia was the first time an IPL team had beaten an Australian team.
- Aravind's four overs for 69 smashed the previous record for the worst bowling figures in the Champions League by 10 runs, held by Amit Mishra when bowling against the Royal Challengers at the same venue in 2009. They are also the second-worst figures in all Twenty20 cricket, falling 12 short of Sarmad Anwar's effort for Sialkot Stallions earlier this year.
There is also no respite for the Indian side as far as the bowling department is concerned. When the Blues have the exciting fast bowling talents of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in their repertoire, the IPL club is struggling with the wayward stuff bowled by Dirk Nannes and Sreenath Aravind – the new entrant to the Indian national side was hit for 69 runs in his four overs on Wednesday.
Left-arm spin twins, skipper Daniel Vettori and Syed Mohammad could well make the difference on Friday as the Aussie side, despite having the slow left-armer Steve O'Keefe in their ranks, could find it difficult to cope with the RCB spinners.
But as we have seen often enough in this ultra-short format of the game, it’s the team which performs better on a given day which takes the honour at the end. And we should not be surprised if RCB do just that on Friday.