Auckland aim to take down fourth champion
Match factsOctober 17, 2012
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)
The Champions League T20 rolls on to its fourth venue, Kingsmead in Durban, where two teams that won their first games in Group A will play the opening match of Wednesday's double-header. Titans beat the Big Bash League runners-up, Perth Scorchers, while Auckland Aces handed IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders their second defeat. Both victories were comprehensive. The winner of this contest will move to the top of their group.
Auckland already have the scalps of three domestic T20 champions - from Pakistan, England and India. They'll be gunning for South Africa's.
There's been a pattern to Auckland's victories - two in the qualifying round and one in the main draw. They bowl first, restrict the opposition to a middling total, and their top order mows it down. The most they've conceded is 137, the most wickets they've lost during a chase is four, and the longest they've taken to complete a chase is 17.4 overs.
While all of Auckland's bowlers have contributed either in terms of economy or wickets, Kyle Mills and Azhar Mahmood have stood out, exploiting the seam and bounce that was on offer in Johannesburg and Cape Town. If conditions are similar in Durban, they will enjoy it. Auckland's top order - Lou Vincent, Martin Guptill and Mahmood - have got most of the job done in the three games so far, and the middle has been needed only to polish off a chase. Their performances have made the competition sit up and take notice.
Titans openers, Jacques Rudolph and Henry Davids, did most of the run-making against Scorchers, scoring half-centuries before a poor finish gave them a total less imposing than what seemed probable. Their bowling, however, was most impressive, containing and cutting through an experienced and power-packed batting line-up. In Alfonso Thomas and Roelof van de Merwe, they have two seasoned T20 professionals, while fast bowler CJ de Villiers gives the attack bite. If they can get through the Auckland top order, that could be half the battle.
Watch out for...
CJ de Villiers was impressive during the first Champions League T20 in 2009, taking six wickets at 12.16 apiece with an economy rate of 6.63 on run-filled pitches in India. He was playing for Eagles then. Now with Titans, de Villiers began the 2012 tournament by taking 3 for 16 in four overs against Scorchers. His wickets came off consecutive deliveries in his first over and were of Shaun Marsh and Marcus North. A tall quick who bowls with high bounce at brisk pace, de Villiers might have had an international cap by now had South Africa's national team not been awash with bowlers of his kind.
Auckland's top three batsmen have fired in all their games so far so Anaru Kitchen, who bats at No. 4, has only been required to finish off a chase that was already going well. He scored 33 against Sialkot Stallions and 24 against Kolkata and showed a penchant for aggression in those innings. Kitchen is yet to be tested with more responsibility in this tournament and he could be faced with such a situation if Titans get through Auckland's top order early.
Pitch and conditions
The weather, unfortunately, could spoil this contest. It's been raining in Durban in the lead-up to this game and more of forecast for Wednesday. Should there be a dry window, however, the pitch could be spicy.
"It does swing and seam around a bit in New Zealand as it does here in South Africa and that made the acclimatising easier for us. I'm getting the team off to a good start but hope to do better in the coming games by playing right through the innings."
Auckland opener Lou Vincent
"I think this year the competition is much more even. And it is going to be tough getting through to the play-offs; we had a good start in the first game so we hope to get the momentum and finish off well."
Titans spinner Roelof van der Merwe
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo