NSW v Victoria, Champions League, 1st semi-final, Delhi October 21, 2009

New South Wales a class apart

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There must have been a few Chelsea and Manchester United fans who felt a little odd when the two teams clashed in the 2008 Champions League final. The venue, Moscow, was 2500 km away from the scenes of their usual skirmishes, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. Compared to the sense of displacement felt by supporters of New South Wales and Victoria in Delhi tonight, that was nothing though. As the crow flies, it's 10,193 km to Melbourne, 10,416 to Sydney. For one of sport's most ancient rivalries - spanning 262 games and 117 years - this truly was a step into the unknown.

New South Wales have been dominant both at Sheffield Shield (45 wins to Victoria's 27) and 50-over cricket (nine triumphs to four), but the Twenty20 format is one in which the poorer cousins from Melbourne can claim greater mastery. They were well on course for a fourth consecutive success in the Big Bash last January until Ben Rohrer's 20-ball 44 and a bye off the final ball gave NSW the trophy for the first time.

On a slow and low pitch where both had previously excelled - Victoria thrashed the Delhi Daredevils, while NSW were way too good for both Eagles and Sussex - you expected a closely-fought game. Apart from a Shield match at Albury (countryside NSW, in 1989) and a 50-over contest in Canberra (2006), the contest had never strayed too far from the traditional venues in Melbourne and Sydney, but never had there been so much at stake as on this early winter's night at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

In financial terms, the difference between exiting the tournament in the semi-final (US$500,000) and winning it (US$2.5 million) was huge. It's probably fair to say that there's never been a domestic match with so much riding on the outcome. Sadly, the occasion seemed to get to Victoria who were never in the game after a tidy first over from Shane Harwood.

David Warner and Phillip Hughes are quite an opening combination, one determined to bust the myth that left-handers make more elegant batsmen. If Hughes' bat comes down like an axe, the Warner method is redolent of the blacksmith on his anvil. Between them though, they took Peter Siddle apart, combining straight-bat flails with tennis-forehand smears. One such swipe from Hughes, down to the sightscreen, was spectacularly ugly. In this format though, aesthetics mean nothing, and by the time the Powerplay was over, New South Wales had 56 on the board.

"We'd pretty much summed up in a team meeting last night what we were going to do," said Warner after the game. "The plan was to target the sightscreens. When Phil was playing across the line, I told him, 'Mate, we can't afford to do that at the moment.' He played his natural game after that. "

Only Harwood and Andrew McDonald, with his slow medium pace pitched short of a length, adjusted to the conditions. Siddle was too full and Jon Holland, the left-arm spinner, was also brutalised. And though the batting lost some fizz in the second half of the innings, 169 was at least 30 more than Victoria could reasonably have expected to chase.

"They took the game to us," a disappointed Cameron White said. 'It's not easy to play like that on a pitch like this. But we were a little too full or a little too short with our bowling."

While other captains have whined about having to play on these Delhi pitches, Simon Katich has been utterly phlegmatic about it. "It's like the slow pitches we play on in Sydney," he said when asked if he would have preferred to play the semi-final in Hyderabad. "We're quite used to it." He and his side have made the adjustment seamlessly, and Katich's captaincy deserves plaudits, both for giving Nathan Hauritz a share of the new ball this evening, and also for bringing on a left-right combination against the spinners earlier in the game. New South Wales have been flexible without being gimmicky, and Katich has had an answer for every situation, Kieron Pollard excepted.

Brett Lee has bowled with impressive control and fiery pace, and the support from Doug Bollinger, Stuart Clark and the innocuous-looking Moises Henriques has been tremendous. And with Hauritz getting prodigious turn to go with his new-found self-belief, no batting side has really looked at ease against them. Pollard's heroics in Hyderabad merely obscured the fact that Trinidad and Tobago were comfortably second-best for 35 overs of that match.

Add in the likes of Rohrer, who produced another cameo tonight, and the promise of Steven Smith, and it's not hard to see why Katich's side will be huge favourites on Friday night, no matter who they play. They may be a long way from home, but Australia's most successful state side seem intent on proving that, like the national team, they're a class apart.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rsgarcia on October 23, 2009, 13:12 GMT

    It's interesting that so few people have noticed that in every match so far, more than one person has managed to stand up for T&T. Unlike other teams, T&T doesn't build their team around star players. We count on star performances from everyone. That's why we were able to overtake NSW, because we never count ourselves out. You can look at it as NSW lost to Pollard--or you can admit that we pulled the match back during their innings in the last few overs too, or they would have comfortably made far more runs. As for the equation of how many teams would make more than fifty off twentysomething balls--that's an equation that happened many times in the Standford 20/20 and I think the results were about even. My point is, T&T have been in crunch situations at home and abroad, and we're accustomed to pulling it out. That's a talent too. So I have faith that my team didn't just lose to NSW because of one man--NSW wasn't able to overcome us. Hope they aren't counting on us failing this time.

  • slaton on October 23, 2009, 13:04 GMT

    The T& T team was selected with the explosion in mind for the last 5 overs. If it was not a part of the design then you can make the assumptions that the writer had made but the fact is that one of the plans while batting is to ensure that as close to a hundred runs are made in the first 10 overs as possible with the big hitting batsmen to come in the last 7-5 overs. It wasn't luck, it's strategy the wickets were sacrificed to set up the Pollard onslaught T&T back themselves to get fifty odd in the first and the last 5 and therefore the only reason Pollard batted at 7 was to ensure that the last 5 overs set up. I thought that NSW were ok in their innings but scored very slowly and that they would struggle to post a good score. Henriques did well to help them push on to score 53 in the last 5 and post a total that they had not been on course to score before but it was too little too late. NSW bowling was also hittable if played straight as they have not much special about them.

  • harry93 on October 22, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    puddykins: I believe what Dileep means is that the T&T bowlers didn't perform that well and their batting only came good in the last 5 overs. NSW were 0/117 after the15th over. They lost one wicket in the 16th and 3 in the 20th. 4/170 after 20 at 8.5.

    T&T lost a wicket in each of the 3rd, 4th and 5th over. In an over comparison they were behind NSW the whole time in terms of wickets lost and it wasn't until the 17th over (thanks to Pollard) that they got ahead in terms of runs scored.

    I'd say that's comfortably second-best for 35 overs.

    If T&T come up against NSW in the final they had better hope that more than one of their players fire. Or NSW had better hope Henriques doesn't leak so many runs at the end - he went for 43 runs in two overs!

  • Ricky1624 on October 22, 2009, 12:14 GMT

    "Pollard's heroics in Hyderabad merely obscured the fact that Trinidad and Tobago were comfortably second-best for 35 overs of that match. "

    So you are hoping that if they meet in the final the game will be reduced to 35 overs?

  • Dravydenko on October 22, 2009, 10:39 GMT

    Re: Puddykins - So having just 4 wickets left needing 51 from 24 isn't being second best? How many times do teams win from that position? Yup, they timed that perfectly. And how insulting to write 'typical Indians' and 'do you Indians even think when you are writing?'. If someone said that about West Indians they would be described as as racist and rightly so. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge would see the star quality of NSW, and that's without 3 brilliant injured players as well as the newly acquired Shane Watson. I think T&T have been wonderful but show some respect to both NSW and a quality Indian writer like Dileep.

  • Pegasus82 on October 22, 2009, 10:27 GMT

    puddykins - not only is your post racist, I assume you didn't watch the earlier T&T vs NSW match. Dileep's assessment about the match is spot-on. NSW were taking the match further and further away from T&T who appeared to have no answer. "Obviously T&T did something right ..." - Well, yes, they lost enough wickets to allow Pollard to come to the crease before it was too late. T&T and NSW have been the outstanding teams of the tournament and I look forward to them playing in the final.

  • riverlime on October 22, 2009, 9:40 GMT

    Dileep, Dileep, Dileep.... I humbly suggest you get yourself a nice big cake and write the phrase " Trinadad and Tobago were comfortably second-best " (spelling mistake and all) on the top in icing. That way it will taste nice.

  • cook on October 22, 2009, 7:02 GMT

    True, it is a very depleted NSW team, lets not forget that Shane Watson is also now a NSW player and he is also missing from the sqaud.

  • Baundele on October 22, 2009, 6:41 GMT

    NSW has the best bowling combination; but T&T is a strong batting outfit, when T20 is concerned. If Hughes and Warner do not fire, they will be in trouble in the final. If Cobras are making it to the final, Gibbs need to be in form. And an inform Gibbs can murder any bowling attack. In another article, Gavaskar is accusing Cobras for not fighting to win. Who will want to face NSW bowlers on the Delhi pitch, while having the option? :D

  • Copernicus on October 22, 2009, 3:45 GMT

    And to think, this is an injury-depleted NSW outfit! Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke are missing fromt he batting line-up and Nathan Bracken isn't here to take the ball....

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