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ESPNcricinfo picks a team of the best performers in the tournament
October 10, 2011
Features : A tournament of contrasting venues
Features : Malinga solves Mumbai Indians' problems
Features : Narine's mystery and Tait's yo-yo effect
Players/Officials: Kevon Cooper | Callum Ferguson | Chris Gayle | Harbhajan Singh | Craig Kieswetter | Virat Kohli | Lasith Malinga | Sunil Narine | Ravi Rampaul | Roelof van der Merwe | David Warner
Series/Tournaments: Nokia Champions League T20
David Warner, 328 runs at a strike-rate of 172.63
Becoming the first man to score consecutive Twenty20 hundreds, Warner showed that sustained power-hitting could be achieved without resorting to slogging. Both his centuries came in must-win games on pitches as different as those in Bangalore and Chennai. Many marauding batsmen - including Chris Gayle - have been tamed by R Ashwin in crunch situations in this format but Warner targeted him with three switch-hit boundaries, the last of which sailed over the extra cover boundary. Hitting as straight as possible, Warner peppered the arc from wide long-off to deep midwicket with sixes and even displayed new-found patience by giving himself time to settle in. No wonder he was gutted when his second century proved to be insufficient in the first semi-final.
Chris Gayle, 257 runs at a strike-rate of 178.47
The Royal Challengers Bangalore team management may deny it but it was clear in IPL 2011 that their fortunes rose and dipped with Gayle's performances. That trend generally continued in the Champions League. They lost three of the four games in which Gayle did not last long, including the final. Twice Gayle fired, and twice, the opposition might as well have not turned up. Somerset were silenced with eight sixes, and even Warner dejectedly slumped on the ground after another eight put NSW out of the tournament. Gayle got a marginal leg-before decision early in the final, and that was the end of the Royal Challengers' campaign.
Craig Kieswetter, 144 runs at a strike-rate of 123.07
He joined the Somerset squad late but Kieswetter almost took his side to the final with consecutive half-centuries that were as effective as they were patient. Kieswetter's batting reputation has been built on assaults at the top of the order for England in limited-overs cricket. He showed that his game was flexible enough to accommodate different pitches and conditions and still make a decisive impact. His 62 was the highest individual score in the second semi-final, and had he not got hit on the forearm by Jos Buttler's shot in the penultimate over, he could have ended up on the winning side. His wicketkeeping, safe and assured, was a bonus.
Virat Kohli, 232 runs at a strike-rate of 145.91
If Warner differentiated relentless hitting from slogging, Kohli made it look beautiful as well. No total was safe when he was in flow on the true Bangalore pitch. In his short career, he has shown sharp awareness of the angles on the field, and his trademark whip-drives and swat-flicks almost always found the gaps. Twice the Royal Challengers chased more than 200, and Kohli was Man of the Match on both occasions. The inside-out loft over extra cover may well define him in the years to come. He played it almost at will when a boundary was needed, against pace and spin both. The slow Chennai pitch didn't suit him though in the all-important final.
Callum Ferguson, 147 runs at a strike-rate of 159.78
Closer to Kohli on the hitting scale than Warner, Ferguson backed his words when he promised of a "braver" batting approach after South Australia's insipid opening defeat against Warriors. Two days later against the Knight Riders, he exploded after a watchful start, taking 21 off a Yusuf Pathan over. Featuring mostly straight hitting, his unbeaten 70 off 40 balls gave South Australia their only win of the tournament. A similar effort against Royal Challengers followed, but Kohli was better on the night.
Roelof van der Merwe, 179 runs at a strike-rate of 164.22, six wickets @ 7.04 runs an over
van der Merwe was the unlikely hero for Somerset, with the feisty combination of frenetic hitting at No. 3 and the aggression of a fast bowler while bowling left-arm darts. He did the early running for Somerset before Kieswetter arrived, twice getting them past Kolkata Knight Riders' army of slow bowlers with furious yet clean hitting. He impressed so much that he retained the No. 3 spot even after Kieswetter and Buttler arrived. His flat left-arm spin was difficult to get away and whole-hearted fielding in the deep made him the complete package.
Kevon Cooper, five wickets @ 5.29 runs an over, 65 runs at a strike-rate of 191.17
Kieron Pollard's act in the inaugural Champions League was tough to follow, but Cooper at least revived the memories, twice proving the difference between victory and defeat for Trinidad & Tobago with the bat. His twenties low down the order at strike-rates of 280 and 227.27 were decisive in low-scoring games. His slow-medium loopy deliveries appeared even more innocuous than Pollard's but along with the T&T spinners, he proved virtually impossible to hit throughout, even likening the slow pitches to those back home.
Harbhajan Singh, seven wickets @ 6.27 runs an over
Samuel Badree had a much better economy rate, but Harbhajan's impact on Mumbai Indians went far beyond his bowling, coming good as it did on the big occasion of the final. He was stand-in leader of a side that needed to get the tournament rules changed in order to be able to put an XI on the field. His partnership with Lasith Malinga brought MI back from the dead against Chennai Super Kings and his three wickets played their part in the last-ball win over T&T. But it was the way he somehow managed to get the best out of a ragged outfit at crucial junctures that was his biggest contribution. And when the biggest moment came, he stepped up with the ball too, getting Gayle and Kohli in the final.
Lasith Malinga, 10 wickets @ 5.85 runs an over, 68 runs at a strike-rate of 183.78
Malinga's impact on MI's fortunes was bigger than Gayle's on the Royal Challengers'. And that tells everything. Twice he bailed MI out of a hole, with the bat, during the group stage. Somerset knew what was coming, yet had no answer to his yorkers and dipping full tosses in the second semi-final. His two sixes in a low-scoring final gave him a bit more to defend. Harbhajan persisted with him after his first two overs had gone for 15, and Malinga responded by bowling Tillakaratne Dilshan with the first ball of the third. There could not have been an easier choice for the Man of the Series.
Ravi Rampaul, 12 wickets @ 6.25 runs an over
It has been a remarkable year for Rampaul. He has finally got it together, running in with gusto, bowling with pace and control, and hurrying batsmen with zip and bounce. Even the slow Indian wickets could not stop him from troubling batsmen with the short ball. In an attack which thrived on taking pace off the ball, Rampaul turned out to be too much of a contrast for the opposition, except at the death against NSW and Moises Henriques.
Sunil Narine, 10 wickets @ 4.37 runs an over
No one could make any sense of Narine's assortment of offbreaks, legbreaks and "knuckle balls." He didn't turn the ball much, but that does not help when batsmen are clueless about which direction the ball is going after Narine's fast release. The most he went for in any game was 26 against NSW and in the next match against the Super Kings, he took an astounding 3 for 8, accounting for Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and M Vijay. Narine, Badree and Cooper has got to be one of the most miserly combinations going around.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Abhishek Purohit
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