The Lions have had a strong run in the Champions League T20 up to now, and they have a good chance to make the final if Delhi’s superstar players continue to flop. ANT SIMS previews the semi-final clash happening at Kingsmead on Thursday.
When the Lions started the Champions League, nobody gave them much of a chance. Sure, they had homeground advantage, but on paper their squad didn’t really set the world alight. Those who didn’t follow the South African domestic competition last year wouldn’t have known that their man Chris Morris was the highest wicket-taker in the competition, picking up 21 sticks in 12 matches.
Many also wouldn't have known that Quinton de Kock was fifth-highest run scorer, clobbering 324 in 12 games. While Morris hasn’t exactly commanded the stage with in this tournament, there are players who stood out – and in any case, in some ways a lack of razzmatazz has actually worked in the Lions’ favour. As a unit they are solid and cohesive; everybody knows their role, and when somebody fails, there has generally been another player who can step out and pull them back into the game.
Delhi, contrastingly, has snuck into the semi-finals under the radar. So-called star players have failed to impress, especially with the bat, and they’ve had two of their matches washed out. On paper, Delhi should trounce the Lions, but luckily for the South African team, cricket isn’t played on paper. If they can continue to click together like they have in their last few matches, they’ll fancy their chances.
It’s both sides’ second appearance in the tournament, and the first time either of them feature in the semi-finals. A good clash awaits spectators if the weather holds out.
THE ROAD TO THE SEMI-FINALS
The teams have had two very different journeys to reach the business end of the competition. The Daredevils got off to a thundering start when they beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 52 runs in their first match, and then had a match rained out before they edged the Perth Scorchers by three wickets in a thrilling match in Cape Town. Their final match against the Titans in Durban was washed out, but they went through to the next stage thanks to a few other results having gone their way.
The Lions started their campaign by beating the defending champions – the Mumbai Indians – by eight wickets, and followed it up with a victory over Chennai Super Kings, beating the IPL franchise by six wickets before running into a fierce Sydney Sixers at Newlands and losing by five wickets. They won their final match against Yorkshire by five wickets in rather dramatic fashion, nearly failing to chase 132 runs.
It’s been a mixed bag for both sides, and while the Lions probably have a bit more momentum than the Daredevils, the home team might be just a little bit on edge after a close shave with one of the weakest sides in the competition.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aaron Phangiso has been a revelation in the competition, and he's crafted a niche for himself as a specialist T20 player. He's crafty and there is little mystery about him – Phangiso is just a solid spinner who knows how to put pressure on batsmen and fox them when they least expect it. He's the third-highest wicket taker in the competition at the moment, and Lions' skipper Alviro Petersen will be looking to him to do what he has done best: break partnerships at crucial moments.
Ross Taylor has been a shadow of his power-hitting self in the tournament, and while he’s notched up a couple of handy knocks, he’s not really stamped his authority on the tournament. The Lions’ bowling unit has struggled slightly – and if there was ever a chance for Taylor to take advantage of some mental fragility, this is it. If he comes up against Morris, the New Zealander will target him and he might just get the runs that many will say he is due. DM
Photo by Reuters.