Aussie big boys to renew rivalry away from home

Cricket: Champions League: Blues meet Bushrangers in first semis

 
Battle of nerves: Missed opportunities such as this dropped chance by the Bushrangers’ Aiden Blizzard will be severely punished in Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal.PTIWednesday’s Champions League T20 semifinal clash at the Feroze Shah Kotla between two Australian sides, New South Wales Blues and Victoria Bushrangers, promises to be a similar affair.

It says a lot about the high quality of the Australian domestic set-up that two of the four teams in the semifinals are from Down Under, ensuring that at least one side will be representing the Antipodeans in the inaugural CLT20 final.

“It’s a very good contest and it probably goes to show how good Australian cricket is and how good our domestic cricket is,” said NSW Blues paceman Stuart Clark. “We are getting a chance to play a domestic game in India, which is a good chance for all the guys. There has been a great rivalry between us for many years now. We are all excited and very keen to come out on top and have some bragging rights over Victoria.”

Purely on the evidence of performances in the tournament so far, NSW and Victoria may not be the best teams. That tag should go to Trinidad and Tobago, who appear to have embodied all the qualities that a team needs to excel in the shortest format. But to say that the Aussie sides have shown the ability to adapt the most in alien conditions will not be stretching things.

To start with, both teams were based in Delhi during their Group Stage matches and both showed remarkable skills on the difficult Kotla wicket to make it to the League Phase. In the League Phase, they played in Hyderabad and Bangalore, where the pitches assisted stroke-making. Without being extraordinary, the two sides did enough to make it to the knockout stage.

Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see which of these sides makes the most of the conditions they have become sort of familiar with. One thing is for sure -- the toss is going to play a crucial role in the outcome of the result, as admitted by NSW skipper Simon Katich.

“Obviously, winning toss is going to be very crucial. Both the sides have played here and both of us know exactly what to expect and what to do,” said Katich on the eve of the match here on Tuesday.   
   
The slow nature of the pitch obviously provides the spinners with a greater role to play and NSW, with off-spinner Nathan Hauritz and leg-spinner Steven Smith in their ranks, may just have a slight edge over their rivals.

On paper, both sides seem well balanced. If NSW boast of a world-class bowling line-up in Brett Lee, Clark and Doug Bollinger, Victoria have a solid batting order in Cameron White, Brad Hodge and David Hussey.

It could well be a contest between NSW’s bowling and Victoria’s batting.

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