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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
It is not everyday that Hyderabad, which traditionally hosts only ODIs, gets a big match. With both teams hitting top gear in the semi-finals, I expected sparks to fly in this one.
Trinidad & Tobago have been uber cool and have played an attractive brand of cricket without compromising on substance, a characteristic of the great West Indian teams of the 80s. The prospect of an Australian team winning a final lacked novelty and I supported T&T all the way.
It turned out to be Brett Lee's match. With the bat, the ball and in the field, he delivered every time T&T were looking to step it up. While he was always going to be dangerous with the ball in hand, it was his marshalling of the New South Wales innings that pushed the target beyond T&T's reach.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
I was disappointed with the way the T&T innings folded up towards the end and was puzzled by their batting order. I would definitely have sent Kieron Pollard ahead of Denesh Ramdin, who got stuck and put pressure on the other batsmen.
Face-off I was looking out for
Lee v the T&T line-up. The way T&T handled Lee was going to be crucial to the outcome of the match, given that T&T have relied so much on their explosive batting to see them through. It turned out to be a no-contest, with Lee taking two wickets in quick time and not even requiring to come back for a second spell.
Pollard came in at seven, with the required rate already at about 10 an over. The moment Nathan Hauritz came on, Pollard was always going to go for it. He did - and how! A flighted one was taken with the spin and deposited three tiers on top of long-on with one clean swing of the bat. The ease with which he executed the shot was stunning and the ball went miles into the night sky. It was easily the biggest hit of the tournament and was the one moment I will remember for years from this match. The shot of the tournament.
The T&T players' Indian names provide great potential for nicknames. Rampaul, who was continually referred to as Ramu, Ram Babu and the like, did not look amused. Though most players only responded to the crowd with casual waves, the usually stoic Stuart Clark was seen enjoying the music, and joined in with a jig of his own, which drew huge cheers from the stands.
The tournament finally got the crowd it deserved. Almost all the stands were full, generating just the kind of atmosphere you would expect for a big match, with every shot, wicket and fielding effort being cheered. Even Daryl Harper's birthday announcement received cheers, and a section of the crowd sang the "Happy Birthday" song, which might have pleased good ol' Harper if he had managed to hear it amid all the noise.
Most of the spectators had come in straight from work, hence there were no wigs or costumes on display. I suppose the fanciest shirt belonged to yours truly - a customised Indian jersey with "Bhogle 29" on the back (29, by the way, is not my age).
The DJ and the music were much better than at the previous Hyderabad matches. The crowd was kept on their feet with Mexican waves. The calypso music added to the flavour of the cricket on display and had the crowd humming along. Apparently, the crowd created "history" with 12 rounds of the Mexican wave - a Champions League record.
IPL v Champions League
The Champions league did not manage to generate the kind of craze and fan following the IPL did. Having fewer teams with more known names in them might help. Also, including the Sialkot Stallions, which would definitely get the crowds in. There's nothing better than stoking up the good old India v Pakistan sentiment.
Banner of the Day
With the ridiculous security rules in place, very few managed to sneak their banners in. "Pollard for Chennai" stood out. Looks like the IPL bidding has already begun and Pollard is hot property.
Marks out of 10
The match finally delivered what Twenty20 cricket should all be about - good crowds, a competitive match with good performances, and an evening without a single dull moment, all after a day's work. I would give this an 8 (docked two points because the match finished four overs early).
The future of the tournament
With the month-long IPL already firmly entrenched on the international calendar, having another fortnight-long tournament sounds like overkill. I think the Champions League will have to travel sustain interest. England would be a good place to start. The format seems compact compared to the lengthy IPL and does not need more teams.
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