For about two weeks, the ongoing Champions League Twenty20 failed to attract spectators to the stadiums for most of the matches and it is safe to hazard a guess there weren’t too many takers for the tournament at homes either. This indifference was to be expected considering India’s woeful performance in England and the virtual non-stop cricket that has been played since the World Cup.
The qualifying and group stage matches not involving any of the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams were hardly watched either at the stadiums or on television sets at homes; the ones involving IPL teams fared only a tad better (not taking into account when Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore played at home). Luckily for the organisers, the semi-finalists weren’t determined until the last two days of the group stage and this did help in attracting more eyeballs – both at the stadium and at homes.
That two of the last four matches in the group stage saw some pulsating performances have gone a long way in ensuring this edition of the CL T20 won’t be a damp squib. On Tuesday, David Warner’s scintillating 69-ball 136 not out helped New South Wales Blues knock defending champions CSK out of the tournament. Warner’s knock was one of the best T20 knocks ever and what made it more special was that it came on a slow track at MA Chidambaram Stadium, which until then had proven to be the scourge of batsmen.
If that wasn’t enough to infuse some much-needed life into the tournament, the last group stage match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and South Australia Redbacks certainly did that and much more. The must-win match for both teams saw a terrific unbeaten century, three cracking knocks in the seventies, a five-wicket haul and an outstanding run chase that was capped by a last-ball six as RCB won the match to book their berth in the semi-finals in front of more than 10,000 spectators at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Daniel Harris hit 17 boundaries and two sixes in his 61-ball 108* in one of the best-ever batting displays one can hope to see in a T20 match and his 114-run partnership with Callum Ferguson (70 in 43 balls) was the perfect example of scoring runs in the middle overs without taking too many risks and then ending the innings with aplomb. The Redbacks eventually ended with a score of 214 for 2 even as S Aravind of RCB had figures of 4-0-69-0 – the second worst in T20 history.
The Redbacks would have expected an easy victory after posting such an imposing total, but RCB’s opening pair of Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan added 65 runs in 37 balls for the first wicket to set the tone for the hosts’ run chase. What followed next was undoubtedly one of the greatest knocks in T20 history as Virat Kohli hit four boundaries and 6 sixes as he smashed 70 off just 36 deliveries to set RCB on their way to a win. His knock was all the more special as it came in a high-pressure situation and as he himself admitted later it was the most exciting T20 match of his career so far. Kohli was well-supported by Dilshan (74 in 47 deliveries) and at one stage it seemed RCB would easily chase down the tough target, but Shaun Tait (5-32) took three wickets in the 19th over of the hosts’ innings to give the match another twist. RCB needed 15 runs to win off the last over of the match by Dan Christian; and did well to take nine runs in the first five deliveries. The Redbacks would have still harboured hopes of sneaking through, but the hitherto unknown Arun Karthik did a Javed Miandad as he hit a slower Dan Christian delivery for a six over midwicket to send the RCB dugout into raptures.
These two matches have ensured attention is now riveted on the last three matches of the tournament starting with the first semi-finals between RCB and Blues at Bangalore on October 7. The tournament really needs to see good and tight contests in these matches to ensure the next edition gets in more spectators for all matches.