T&T blast their way to final
The only unbeaten team in the Champions League produced another compelling performance oozing with Caribbean flair to knock the Cape Cobras out of the tournament and set up a summit clash against New South Wales. The second semi-final wasn't anywhere near as one-sided as the first, though, and Trinidad & Tobago and the Cobras traded blow for blow, wrestling for the upper hand until Dwayne Bravo's first significant contribution with the bat in the competition turned the contest on a thrilling evening in Hyderabad.
T&T raised their intensity at crucial moments: when the Cobras' openers made a fast start, when the middle-order batsmen batted with aggression and when, at the death, they followed up a 20-run penultimate over by conceding only two off the last. The Cobras, on the other hand, dropped an appalling number of catches and failed to contain T&T's thrilling opening combination, which set the base for Bravo and Daren Ganga's match-winning 93-run partnership.
The T&T approach to batting has been sheer entertainment during the Champions League and they did not let the pressure of chasing 175 in a semi-final cramp their style. Their openers, Adrian Barath and Wiliam Perkins, targeted Monde Zondeki for most of the early runs. Barath played with flamboyance and cut him for four, drove for six, and whipped to the leg side boundary to take 16 off the second over. Perkins stole the spotlight soon after, with a cheeky hat-trick of fours in the fourth. Andrew Puttick gave Rory Kleinveldt a go, but he leaked 15 off his first five balls - six of those a result of a towering cut by Barath over point.
T&T raced to 53 off 4.5 overs when a misjudged single led to Perkins' run-out. Barath followed soon after, for 29 off 16, when he played back to Duminy and was trapped in front. But just when the Cobras had an opening, their fielding went to pieces. Lendl Simmons was dropped in successive overs by Henry Davids and, though those errors didn't cost the Cobras much, the next one hurt them plenty.
The spinners had brought T&T's run-rate down and there had been no boundaries for 31 balls until Bravo pulled Justin Ontong for six in the 13th over. The asking-rate was still steep - T&T needed 68 off 38 balls - when Bravo offered Ontong a catch at long-on and was dropped. The Cobras never found a way back.
Ontong watched Ganga loft the next ball over his head for six, before Bravo cut loose in Vernon Philander's next over, hitting consecutive sixes over long-off and extra cover. The asking-rate went into freefall thereafter with the batsmen finding the boundary in every over. Bravo brought up his half-century off 31 balls by lofting Charl Langeveldt through cover, and finished the game with four balls to spare by pulling Kleinveldt to the midwicket boundary.
At one stage of the Cobras innings, though, when they were consistently scoring at nine an over, it seemed they would set T&T somewhere near 200 to chase. Aided by exceptional fielding and safe catching, T&T ensured that two well-set batsmen were never at the crease together and the Cobras momentum was not maximized as a result.
They had raced to 54 after their Powerplay, the out-of-form Herschelle Gibbs rising to the occasion and doing the bulk of the hitting by pummeling Bravo for four leg-side boundaries in an over. He even had a slice of luck when the third umpire deemed there was a bit of boot behind the line and ruled him not out after Denesh Ramdin had completed a sharp stumping of Kieron Pollard. That, however, cost T&T only one run as Gibbs was bowled by a slower one from Pollard for 42 off 27 balls.
T&T saw off the threat posed by Kleinveldt and Justin Ontong - after Pollard's outstanding catch on the boundary line was also given not out though replays did not show the ball touching ground - and the lack of a steady partner left Duminy with the responsibility of giving the Cobras an explosive finish. He had begun by attacking Mohammed, hitting the chinaman bowler through extra cover for four and slog-sweeping him for the flattest of sixes. He brought up his half-century off 34 balls and helped Cobras take 20 off the penultimate over bowled by Bravo, who went for 46 off three. Rampaul, however, gave T&T a last-over boost by conceding only two runs off it. And Bravo made up for his largesse with the ball with a match-winning half-century.
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo