Red rage awaits NSW Blues

Red rage awaits NSW Blues

Cricket Champions League T20 semifinal

Virat Kohli will be eyeing another good show after playing a superb knock on Wednesday. DH photo

From last-ball agony in their first league game to last-ball ecstasy in their last, Royal Challengers Bangalore have experienced it all.

The entire gamut of emotions that accompanied their sensational last-ball win on Wednesday against the South Australian Redbacks could have drained most other outfits, but the Challengers are cut from a different cloth. One of the first things coach Ray Jennings and skipper Daniel Vettori addressed in the immediacy of their entry into the semifinal of the Champions League was the possibility of losing sight of the ultimate goal in the euphoria of the adrenaline-driven victory.

The Challengers have been a very strong entity in Twenty20 cricket beyond the horror run of IPL I, but they have also been eternal bridesmaids, often finding themselves in the business end of competitions but continuing to find the silverware elusive.

Friday at the Chinnaswamy stadium will give them another opportunity to take a giant step towards correcting that anomaly when the Challengers run into the formidable New South Wales Blues in semifinal one of Champions League 2011.

It will be unfair to expect a repeat of the extraordinary events of Wednesday when the home side chased down 215 in an exhilarating batting display. Saying that, what that victory has done is convince Vettori and his men, as well as the Challengers’ vociferous, die-hard, optimistic band of supporters, that no task is beyond this team, no challenge too daunting.

For, make no mistake, the Blues will pose a daunting challenge. In David Warner -- one of two centurions in this edition -- and Shane Watson, they have as destructive an opening pair as Gayle and Dilshan; there is depth in the middle-order, experience as well as genuine pace with the new ball, and tremendous spinning guile in the shape of Stephen O’Keefe and, to a lesser extent, Steve Smith.

Having overcome an Australian side in the Champions League for the first time ever, the Challengers must front up with an encore if they are to make the Sunday final at Chepauk, a task not beyond a team that has fairly thrived in bouncing back from the brink.

The Chinnaswamy stadium has been the highest-scoring venue of this competition.

Wonderful batting tracks allied with a lightning quick outfield and relatively shorter boundaries have meant the bowlers have been sent on a hiding to nothing. The potential for destruction that dots both ranks means Friday is unlikely to be any different.

The spotlight will inevitably be on the Warners and Watsons, the Gayles and Dilshans and the Kohlis, but such is the nature of the T20 beast that even a relative unknown can storm out of obscurity in a flash. All it took for KB Arun Karthik to burst forth was one monster six on Wednesday, a stroke of skill and composure that made the difference between brave defeat and extraordinary success.

The trick in a Cup semifinal is to maintain poise, to think on the feet, to improvise and adjust and adapt, and to not set one’s sights too high. Pre-conceiving scores generally tends to be counter-productive, so it will be interesting to see how the side batting first goes about its business. They say in a knockout game, runs on the board is a crucial necessity; the Challengers are masters at chasing, while the Blues too would fancy batting second because the dew can be such a telling factor.

So much to ponder, so much at stake. If Fantastic Friday can be half as thrilling as Wonderful Wednesday was, it will be paisa vasool!

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