Friday, October 23, 2009

New south wales--CL T20 Champions


Brett Lee pulled off a stunning allround show to enable New South Wales haul in the biggest cash prize in a cricket tournament ever by overcoming a brave effort from Trinidad & Tobago in the final of the Champions League Twenty20. The final victory margin of 41 runs doesn't quite tell the real story. T&T came out on the top initially, reducing NSW to 83 for 6, but Lee played a superb hand to propel NSW to a competitive 159 before he returned to jolt the T&T top order with two early wickets. The game was won in the last five overs of the NSW innings and in the first five of the chase and it was Lee who featured in both the little match-turning phases. The game had so many sub-plots - the nervy collapse of NSW and T&T's top order, Ravi Rampaul's canny seam bowling, Sherwin Ganga bowling three overs of spin in the Powerplay, Steven Smith's sensible batting and Kieron Pollard's icy-cool batting effort - but the biggest story was Lee's all-round contribution. He walked in with NSW tottering at 83 for 6, proceeded to slowly pull them out of the hole before shifting gears to charge them to a competitive score. It was almost the perfect counter punch. He knew the first task was safety - he scored just 7 from 13 deliveries - but knew there was no use meandering to a below-par total and thus upped the ante in the end overs with some stunning hits. Lee launched his assault in the 16th over against Lendl Simmons: The first delivery, a full toss, was swung over square-leg for a six, the fourth delivery was cleanly hit over long-on, and the last one was carved to the cover boundary. From then on it was vintage Lee he cleared the front leg and swung cleanly through the line time and again. Navin Stewart disappeared over long-on and Sherwin Ganga was heaved over midwicket as he powered NSW to a good total. Lee got support from Steven Smith, who did what was required perfectly: give the strike to Lee, and try to pinch the occasional boundary to soak up the pressure and ensure he didn't lose his wicket.


Lee wasn't done yet for the night, though. He returned with the ball to harass the T&T top order with his pace, bounce and movement. He took care of the impetuous William Perkins with a full, fast and straight delivery and removed Lendl Simmons with a slower one. Stuart Clark, with his slower cutters, and Doug Bollinger, with his bounce from short of length, proceeded to strangle T&T's middle order and it was left to that man Pollard to try to do the improbable. And he nearly did.


Through this tournament, Pollard has been batting like how Lance Klusener did in the 1999 World Cup. No target seems to be too much for him. Just like Klusener, he was almost unbelievably calm: he started his innings calmly, dealing in singles, before he unleashed his own brand of razzmatazz. He pulled a free hit from Bollinger over midwicket, swung Nathan Hauritz over long-on and got the equation down to 47 from 31 balls when it happened. He went for another six off Hauritz but couldn't clear, who else but, Lee at long-on. With Pollard's exit, Trinidad's dream run came to a crushing halt.


The T&T wagon might have hit the speed breaker in the chase but the start of the day couldn't have been more different, though. If NSW were to get to a huge total, the two hard-hitting openers had to contribute heavily but that didn't happen. T&T started with the spin-seam combination and Sherwin Ganga, the offspinner, bowled three overs in the Powerplay. The third ball of the game perhaps indicated which team was suffering more from the yips. Warner opted to play a weak reverse sweep and nearly edged it back to the bowler. Warner did go on to thread a couple of boundaries on the off side but never looked in. Meanwhile the pressure told on his partner Phillip Hughes, who faced three balls in the first three overs, and fell, trying to slog-pull the impressive Ravi Rampaul. While Sherwin Ganga was miserly, it was Rampaul who really shone with a fine display of canny seam bowling. He hit a full length, got the ball to cut both ways and built pressure. One moment captured his combative spirit perfectly: When Warner tried to impose himself with a crashing cover-drive, Rampaul fired in a sharp 140 kmph bouncer that flew past the startled batsman. The chance for NSW to break free came in the fifth over bowled by Dwayne Bravo, who had leaked runs in the semi-final. Katich started off with a bottom-hand powered six over long-on but Warner fell in the same over, edging one to right of backward point where Dave Mohammed took a fine catch. What followed was a nervy phase for NSW as one batsman after another fell to soft dismissals. Katich punched Bravo straight to mid-off, Moises Henriques swung a short delivery to fine-leg, Ben Rohrer pulled a long hop straight to deep midwicket, and Daniel Smith chopped a length delivery back on to his stumps. But Lee and Smith saved the day with some sensible batting before Lee returned with the ball to kill T&T's dream

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