Clinical New South Wales thrash Victoria
There was no nerve-jangling, last-ball finish today, like there was when New South Wales pipped Victoria twice to win last season's Big Bash. Instead, the Australian champions delivered a clinical performance on a difficult Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, one that ensured the first semi-final of the Champions League was one of the most one-sided matches of the tournament.
On the same pitch where fewer than 200 runs were scored in the match between Delhi Daredevils and Cape Cobras a day ago, the NSW openers David Warner and Phillip Hughes provided a powerful start, which allowed them to post 169, far more than the 110 Victoria captain Cameron White had hoped to limit them to. A tough chase became virtually impossible when offspinner Nathan Hauritz, who was given the second over, struck twice in three deliveries, getting rid of Victoria's openers.
The build-up to the highly anticipated contest between the Australian sides centered around how difficult the track would be for power-hitting and, when Hughes was struck on the arm by a bouncer from Peter Siddle in the second over, it seemed the batsmen would have toil for their runs.
Warner, though, doesn't toil for his runs. His Australia call-up and an IPL contract were results of his ability to tear into bowling attacks and he did just that in front of a disappointingly thin Delhi crowd. The stand-out feature of his innings was his straight-hitting on a pitch with low bounce: both his sixes were clean hits over long-off and he started the onslaught with a searing flat-batted swipe past the bowler, Shane Harwood, in the third over.
That boundary began a prosperous period for NSW. Warner was sublime, bludgeoning 25 runs off ten deliveries he faced from an off-colour Siddle. He rounded off the Powerplay with a lofted straight drive over Siddle's head and launched him to the extra-cover boundary to take NSW to 56.
Victoria got a lucky break in the next over, when Warner was run out attempting a suicidal run after Hughes pushed the ball to point. A livid Warner stormed back to the dug-out, falling two short of a well-deserved half-century.
Hughes had coasted through the Powerplays but switched to top gear after that dismissal. Most of his shots started with him getting the front foot out of the way, whether he crashed the ball past point, caressed it through extra cover, or bludgeoned towards midwicket. He had scored 20 off his previous seven deliveries when he was foxed by Clint McKay's back-of-the-hand slower ball, which batsmen have found extremely hard to pick in this tournament.
Daniel Smith, promoted to No. 3, and captain Simon Katich kept the momentum up, picking off boundaries early in the over and working the singles. Victoria did manage to restrict the runs towards the end though; the only boundaries in the last five overs were a couple of innovative paddle-scoops to fine leg from Ben Rohrer.
The only thing that prevented New South Wales from entering the semi-final unbeaten was a stunning 18-ball 54 from Trinidad & Tobago batsman Kieron Pollard. Victoria needed something similar but Hauritz's blows, followed by Lee's dismissal of Aiden Blizzard, made their task incredibly hard.
After the Powerplay, Victoria had limped to only 17 for 3, and even their experienced and highly-rated duo of White and David Hussey couldn't pull off a rescue act. It was a slow and painful slide to an embarrassing defeat for Victoria and they didn't even manage three figures. White had predicted at the toss that it would be a "hell of a chase" whatever NSW managed; he couldn't have imagined a more hellish chase.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo