McDonald stars in thumping Victorian win
Victoria might have changed venues going into the second phase of the Champions League, but the conditions on offer were uncannily similar to what they faced in Delhi. It was their medium-pacers, particularly Andrew McDonald, who set up their comprehensive victory after Royal Challengers Bangalore had threatened to continue the trend of high scores at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Rob Quiney then ensured they remained dominant, combating the tricky surface with a determined innings to seal victory for Victoria, boosting their semi-final chances and delivering a serious setback to Bangalore's.
Victoria's seamers had thrived on a Delhi pitch that was sluggish, kept low, played slow and catered more to a game of patience than power. The track in Bangalore, on the other hand, initially appeared more suited to the demands of the Twenty20 format. The extra yards of pace from Shane Harwood and Peter Siddle were evident from the bounce and movement they were able to extract early on. But it also meant that they were countered with aggression, for the Bangalore openers, who fancied the ball meeting the bat at the desired pace, took advantage of any scoring opportunity.
Harwood, among the most frugal bowlers in this competition, was struck for two boundaries in his first over, Manish Pandey smashing one over his head and slapping one past mid-off. Robin Uthappa, not one to restrain himself too often, deferred to the belligerence of his junior partner, who displayed shades of his IPL brilliance with two delectable on-drives off Siddle, followed up by an audacious late-cut in his next over.
But the introduction of the other two seamers, and spinner Jon Holland, wrecked the solid foundation laid by the openers. Clint McKay shrugged off two boundaries off successive deliveries to bowl Uthappa with an offcutter; Pandey's aggression prompted him to slap a catch back to McDonald off a ball that didn't come on quickly and Virat Kohli holed out in the deep after failing to get the desired elevation.
Though the bounce remained true, the pitch proved highly conducive to spin and eventually slowed down. Holland, showing glimpses of what he could offer on the subsequent ODI tour of India, kept one end quiet. McDonald, in the meantime, maintained a tight line and his sly cutters, backed up by a frustrating length, earned him two significant breakthroughs. Ross Taylor, a nemesis for bowlers at the death, was caught plumb, and Rahul Dravid, whose exclusion from the ODI squad against Australia was the talking point of the day, was also trapped in front while trying to force the pace. Dravid had anchored the innings amid a flurry of wickets - Bangalore lost three for 19 in under four overs - and kept one end protected from a dismal slide.
Suddenly, the medium pacers made the conditions appear reminiscent of the Kotla, bowling slower deliveries with consistency and chipping away with wickets as the batsmen succumbed to frustration. Only 55 runs were scored in the last ten overs, incredibly for the loss of just four wickets. Though Bangalore had their own share of bowlers capable of replicating the Victorian effort, they were up against a side more experienced batting in such conditions.
Openers Quiney and Brad Hodge, having mapped out their plan for the chase, ensured there were no early hiccups. Both eschewed their natural temptation for the big shots to concentrate on preserving their wickets while also ensuring any errors from the Bangalore bowlers did not go unpunished. Anil Kumble, aiming to derive the maximum help from the pitch in defense of a below-par score, brought himself on in the first over and shuffled the bowling around. But the strategy failed.
The absence of Jacques Kallis due to injury meant Bangalore had to strengthen their line-up on two fronts; Pandey made up with the bat, delivering a fiery start, but Dale Steyn faltered badly with the ball. He was smashed contemptuously over mid-on for a boundary by Quiney in his first over, while Hodge dismissed him for three fours in his next, cashing in on freebies bowled either too short, or too full. With 46 added in six overs, Victoria were favourites by the time Hodge was castled by Balachandra Akhil. Aiden Blizzard and Quiney then built a strong partnership, helped by some wayward bowling - Bangalore conceded 21 extras - which hastened the one-sided conclusion. Both fell in quick succession but not before the task left for the remaining batsmen was a mere formality.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo