Well-oiled New South Wales ready for all-comers
On paper New South Wales have the best side. On form they remain favourites. On Wednesday evening Simon Katich's well-oiled unit became the first team to enter the finals after overwhelming Victoria by 79 runs. The margin of victory over their south Australian neighbours at the Feroz Shah Kotla - easily the worst pitch in the tournament - surprised even NSW.
Katich had pointed out earlier that the toss would be vital on a tough track, and he helped his side by calling correctly again, as he has done all tournament. The emphatic win was set up by their opening pair, Phillip Hughes and David Warner, who bludgeoned 62 runs in little more than six overs.
"We knew the wicket [in Delhi] and that suited our bowling attack but definitely that start we got with the bat was probably a little bit unscripted," Mathew Mott, the NSW coach, said immediately after reaching Hyderabad for Friday's final. "We were hoping to set a decent base and it really exceeded even our biggest expectations and set the game for us. It was hard for Victoria to get back into it."
Hughes and Warner have been wrestling for the top run-maker's slot throughout the tournament, Warner (188) currently trailing his partner by 11 runs. Katich expects a similar thrust in the final from the pair, who have already stitched together three 50-plus partnerships including an incredible 121 against Trinidad & Tobago in Hyderabad.
"Warner is fantastic for us," Katich said, and even questioned Delhi Daredevils' wisdom in not securing the opener's services for the Champions League. "Really I can't understand why Delhi didn't take him - their loss was our gain," Katich said with a smile.
Mott was also pleased that his team didn't slacken throughout the 40 overs despite being in control, which helped them make "a bit of a statement about how we want to go into the final."
Katich said he had no preference about NSW's opponent in the final, which will be decided on Thursday evening when T&T clash with Cape Cobras. "Whoever we play we know it is a tough match," a tired-looked Katich said, having flown to Hyderabad barely hours after the win on Wednesday night. "The only thing is we haven't played the Cobras, so it is going to be a bit of unknown but that applies to both teams."
NSW already have an idea of T&T, after they were flattened by Kieron Pollard's match-turning 15-ball half-century on Sunday. But Katich said he wasn't afraid to run into the only undefeated team in the tournament again. "We were little off in the game against T&T. (But) It came at a good time and it didn't cost us too badly and instead motivated us to make sure we went up a gear in the remaining games and that showed last night."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo