We have finally come down to the semi-finals of the Champions League Twenty20 2014 (CLT20 2014). A once possible scenario of having 3 Indian Premier League (IPL) teams in the semi-finals has become a reality, with two of them topping their respective groups.
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had to face a dramatic finish as Lahore Lions seemed to have a chance of qualification. But a Brad Hogg cameo ensured that the CLT20 2010 champions took up the last semi final spot. Meanwhile, Hobart Hurricane’s qualification was less dramatic, considering how poorly the other three teams played out.
Starting from today (2/10/2014) Kolkarta Knight Riders (KKR) will take on Hobart Hurricanes (HH) in the first semi final, and we have an all IPL second semi-final between CSK and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), both will be played at Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Hyderabad
Semi-final 1: Kolkata Knight Riders vs Hobart Hurricanes
KKR are going through a purple patch as they are unbeaten in the last 13 T20 games. Although they haven’t the most dominating teams, but they have played as a unit and everyone has chipped in for the team, one way or the other. KKR’s batting has been rock solid in this edition of CLT20, with Robin Uthappa being the driving force. In spite of having a rough patch in the ‘A’ tour of Australia, he has performed exceptionally well in CLT20 2014. Along with him, Manish Pandey has chipped in with some useful contributions in the middle.
The bowling attack is also solid, which is expected when Sunil Narine plays in spin friendly tracks. Moreover, he has been well supported by Indian chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who manages to impress everyone with his left-arm chinaman.
Hobart Hurricanes are also a very good T20 side. They have a very experienced batting line-up consisting the likes of Adian Blizzard, Shoaib Malik and Tim Paine. Their bowling attack consists of internationally capped Australian players like Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger and Xavier Doherty. Their spin attack looks pretty weak as compared to KKR, but they have managed to garner victories based on collective team effort.
Battles to watch out for:
Robin Uthappa vs Ben Hilfenhaus: Hilfenhaus likes to swing the ball around, and will be assisted briefly by the new ball. And Uthappa doesn’t hesitate to step out of the crease against pacers. An interesting battle awaits.
Blizzard vs Sunil Narine: If Blizzard goes berserk, it is likely that Gambhir might bring out his ace bowler quite early. Though not the greatest player of spin bowling, all it takes a big hit to dent the confidence of even the best of the bowlers.
Semi-final 2 : Chennai Super Kings vs Kings XI Punjab
It has been an incredible revamp for Kings XI Punjab. First they gave their best ever T20 performance and now they have reached the semi-finals of CLT20 2014. Punjab’s greatest strength is their destructive batting line-up. But in CLT20 2014, their bowling unit has looked equally good. Just like KKR, Punjab have also won all the matches they have played in CLT20 2014.
They will be facing familiar foes CSK, who just managed to scrape a spot after Lahore Lions faced a meltdown in their must win match. But it does not make their team any less dangerous. Raina has been in absolutely stunning form, and other batsmen have complimented him well. Also, the spin duo of R Ashwin and R Jadeja are a threat in these spinning conditions.
Battles to watch out for:
Glenn Maxwell vs R Ashwin: Maxwell must be definitely remembering the send-off he was given the last time Ashwin dismissed him. And he will try to emulate the carnage form he showed in the Dubai segment of IPL this year. Whereas Ashwin will look to tame the batsman who has dominated him more than once. A very spicy encounter in cards.
Suresh Raina vs Akshar Patel: Raina showed why he is one of the best batsmen of this format with a scintillating display against Dolphins. He could be up against one of the budding all-rounders in Indian circuit. Akshar Patel, who was judged as the young player of the tournament in this year’s edition of IPL, has continued his good form into this tournament. This battle could prove very decisive, as Raina is the heart of CSK batting line-up, and Akshar is definitely a trump card Bailey might rely on.
By Kaushik Narayanan
image source: ESPNCRICINFO