Eagles and Somerset battle for leverage
Match factsFriday October 16
Start time 16.00 (10.30 GMT)
The Eagles and Somerset went in opposite directions after their opening games in the competition, but here they are in the second stage, owing to nerves of steel and some luck respectively. The stakes have been raised in this round of the Champions League: luck will take a back seat and the nerves will need tightening.
The Eagles have the momentum - crucial in the Twenty20 format - given their remarkable qualifying win. After a limp showing against New South Wales, the Eagles qualified for the league stage in sensational style, knocking out Sussex in a one-over eliminator after their match in Delhi ended in a tie. They are a side shorn of flashy names but showed against Sussex that when push comes to shove they can be a force to reckon with. Their top order - namely Boeta Dippenaar and Morne van Wyk, internationals both whom they rely heavy on - has not been producing starts but their strength has been the ability of their medium-pacers to consistently hit the blockhole during the final overs. The bowlers haven't leaked runs and the fielding has been very impressive, but Eages would like their most experienced Twenty20 bowler to put his hand up. Ryan McLaren has tasted success at home and in England but is yet to take a wicket in the tournament.
Somerset beat Deccan Chargersin their opening match before losing to Trinidad & Tobago, which means they will carry no points into the second round. But a bigger worry for them will be the sudden departure of Marcus Trescothick from India, after a recurrence of his stress-related illness. The runners-up in England's Twenty20 Cup now carry forward their county and country's hopes in the competition, and without Trescothick, who amassed 1817 first-class runs at 75.00 in the county season, the going will expectedly get tougher. And first up, is the side responsible for ousting Sussex. Their strengths lie with captain-opener Justin Langer, and a canny seam attack featuring Charl Willoughby, Peter Trego and Alfonso Thomas. The common feature in both their games was a weak performance from the middle order; Somerset lack the presence of an enforcer in the lower-middle order, someone who can seriously do damage towards the latter half of the innings.
Neither side will carry points over from the first round so it is imperative that they win and win big. This tournament has shown on several occasions that more than firepower from big names, success has been scripted by lesser names putting their hands up and performing almost every time they have been asked to. This could be the deciding factor for both teams.
Watch out for...
CJ de Villiers took two wickets in two balls as the Eagles beat Sussex on a Super Over at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Tuesday. The Eagles scored nine in their over, after which de Villiers held his nerve to bowl Dwayne Smith and Rory Hamilton-Brown in successive deliveries. Those two strikes ensured de Villiers took the limelight, but he had played a crucial role earlier in the afternoon, taking 2 for 20 to keep Sussex to 119.
Rilee Rossouw is talked about as one to watch out for in South African cricket, but until Tuesday fans in the subcontinent may have been wondering what the heck for. Rossouw's previous highest score in eight Twenty20 matches was just 11. But the 20-year-old opener took an opportune moment to showcase his skills, with Eagles needing to win to progress: he slammed 65 off 62 balls, with six fours and two sixes, picking up the Man-of-the-Match award. No doubt spurred on by that blaze of glory, Roussow now takes guard needing to provide further sparks to keep Eagles going.
After Somerset lost in Bangalore, their captain Justin Langer praised a "brilliant" Trinidad & Tobago and hoped they would dish out similar treatment to Deccan. They did, and Langer now has a chance to make an impression. In two matches he has failed to contribute as opener, but with the pressure turned up you can often rely on an Australian to deliver. Langer is a champion, and champions make the difference between winning and losing.
Craig Kieswetter's sporting hero is his fellow team-mate Trescothick, but with the former England opener out of the competition, Somerset need runs from their wicketkeeper. Kieswetter, who has been tipped by many to be one of the emerging talents from the tournament, can hit a long ball and has turned a few matches Somerset's way in Twenty20s back home. With the stakes raised in the league stage and Somerset's top order not firing, the time has come for Kieswetter to deliver.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo