Eagles qualify after thrilling eliminator
Sussex 119 for 7 (Gatting 25, de Villiers 2-20, du Preez 2-23) tied with Eagles 119 for 4 (Rossouw 65, Chawla 2-17, Hamilton-Brown 2-15) Eagles win one-over eliminator by nine runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
The eliminator came into play for the first time in the Champions League, Eagles and Sussex slugging it out during one super over each after being tied at the end of a dramatic regulation 40 overs. The tie-breaker lasted all of eight balls as Cornelius de Villiers bagged two Sussex wickets off his first two deliveries to hand Eagles a nine-run win.
It should have never got this close. The Eagles were cruising in their pursuit of 120, needing a mere 48 runs off 54 balls with all ten wickets intact to qualify for the second round, when their innings unraveled sensationally against an inspired performance from Sussex's slow bowlers. They were left needing 12 runs off the final over, and five off the last ball, when Ryan McLaren clubbed Yasir Arafat to the deep midwicket boundary to tie the match and bring the one-over eliminator into play. The Eagles managed only nine from the over but de Villiers, entrusted with the defence, uprooted the off stumps of Dwayne Smith and Rory Hamilton-Brown with the first two deliveries to secure a victory that should have been achieved without so much sweating.
For the major duration of the chase, while Riley Rossouw was compiling his attacking half-century, the Eagles were favourites. However after the 13th over, when they needed 42 off 42 balls with nine wickets in hand, Morne van Wyk holed out to long-off and Sussex fielders perhaps sensed the beginning of a choke. The equation climbed to more than a run a ball as the slow bowlers consistently found the blockhole and the fielding lifted. In three overs since van Wyk's dismissal, Eagles managed only 16 and lost Boeta Dippenaar. The pressure started to build on Rossouw and, when on 65, he top edged a heave off Hamilton-Brown and was caught, leaving Eagles 14 to get off eight balls.
Rossouw never took his pads off after returning to the dug out and watched as McLaren edged Arafat past the keeper to reduce the equation to five off two balls. Arafat followed it up with a fantastic yorker off the fifth but McLaren heaved the final ball for four to give Eagles a lifeline.
Such a tense finish was unimaginable when Rossouw was batting, on seemingly a different surface from the one that Sussex struggled on. He hit his second delivery, off Luke Wright, past square leg for four and then lofted over mid-off. Michael Yardy bowled different bowlers in each of the first four overs to try and mix things up but it didn't work.
Rossouw targeted the on side for the bulk of his runs. Against Smith's gentle medium pace, he cleared his front leg and smashed one over the bowler's head. Against James Kirtley, he got down on his knee and swung over wide long-on, and gave Arafat the same treatment after chipping down the track. Prior to this game, he had a highest score of just 11 and Rossouw couldn't have picked a better occasion to score his maiden Twenty20 fifty.
He was lucky to be let off twice though. On 37, the wicketkeeper Andy Hodd failed to collect the ball after Rossouw was already a couple of yards down the pitch. And shortly after reaching his fifty, he survived a run out after being sent back. Sussex will look back at those two reprieves and wonder what could have been.
Sussex would have fancied their chances after making only 119, a defendable total on a typically slow and low pitch at the Kotla. A couple of hours ago, Wayamba had successfully defended 118. Their openers came out with a plan to get off to a blazing start before scoring became difficult against the slower bowlers. With the strong possibility of the old ball keeping low, the strategy was to chip down the track, get close to the pitch of the ball and muscle it over the infield.
It didn't work consistently though. Wright, making his first appearance in the tournament, bashed two sixes but swished at de Villiers and lost his off stump. de Villiers then took an exceptional reflex catch off his own bowling to get rid of Hamilton-Brown. With van Wyk standing up to the stumps, Sussex found it difficult to hit with confidence and at one stage there was a 32-ball boundary drought. However, Sussex lifted again and reached 119, which turned out to be one run too little to make it through from Group B.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo