A performer for every occasion
It may seem like a harsh question, but what is it with South African sides and tournament semi-finals? Trinidad & Togabo needed 91 to win off the last ten overs and lost Lendl Simmons soon after. The boundaries dried up and the asking-rate rose to more than ten an over. The situation was ripe for the Cape Cobras to finish the contest, but they couldn't, mainly because, like they have been doing all tournament, T&T found a player for every situation. Today, it was Dwayne Bravo: he had scored 21 runs in four innings going into the semi-finals, but rose to the challenge with an unbeaten half-century.
When Bravo joined his captain, Daren Ganga, at the crease and found it difficult to raise the tempo, it seemed as though T&T's colourful journey in India was about to come to an end. But the Cobras took their eye off the ball - Justin Ontong's miss off Bravo when he was 17 was the third dropped catch of the innings - and Bravo made them pay. He hit consecutive sixes off Vernon Philander, brought up his half-century with a four off Charl Langeveldt, and finished the contest with a boundary against Rory Kleinveldt.
Bravo, however, wasn't the only player to step up when T&T were faced with a problem today. T&T had been relative underdogs in their earlier games, but for the first time in the tournament they came into a match with a reputation. And the pressure that brings was evident from the start, when Cobras' openers got stuck into the new-ball attack. It needed Sherwin Ganga, who had bowled the first over, to pry out Andrew Puttick in the fifth.
That breakthrough did not stem the run flow, as Herschelle Gibbs finally found form, taking Bravo for 18 runs in the final Powerplay over. As the run-rate hovered around nine an over, Ganga kept shuffling his bowlers to find someone to control Gibbs, and then JP Duminy. The search was futile, until he gave the ball to Lendl Simmons, who bowled a wicket-to-wicket line and kept Duminy and the other power-hitters in check. Simmons struck with his first ball, and conceded only 17 off his three overs, eight of which came in the last.
T&T, however, suffered a severe setback in the penultimate over, when Duminy and Vernon Philander took 20 runs off Bravo. But just when the Cobras looked set to push close to 200, T&T had another player fighting back for them, Ravi Rampaul conceding only two off the final over.
There was an edginess during the start of T&T's chase, as William Perkins and Adrian Barath flayed at every ball. Their team-mates and coaching staff sat with their hands to their faces in the dugout not knowing what was in store. But both youngsters met in the middle and calmed each other.
Perkins and Barath proceeded to tear into the Cobras attack and by the end of the Powerplay, T&T were 57 for 1. But Barath fell a run later, and Simmons with the score on 85, leaving Cobras with an opportunity to fight back. They failed to take it, and Bravo pounced on his reprieve and led T&T into the Champions League final with an outstanding 58 off 34 balls.
Bravo rising to the challenge today wasn't a one-off, though, for different players coming good when it matters has been a distinctive aspect of T&T's campaign. Sherwin Ganga, Dave Mohammed, Kieron Pollard and Barath had been match-winners in previous games and today someone else took the opportunity. "We have got players who step up their game and deliver. Dwayne and myself, we hadn't done much batting wise so far, but I knew when the situation required we would do it," Ganga said.
While T&T's players stepped up, the Cobras wilted. Henry Davids dropped two catches off Simmons in the space of a few deliveries. Ontong also spilt a sitter, and later missed a run-out against Ganga. The dew did not help, but the Cobras were poor. "They played the pressure situations a lot better than us," Puttick said. "The way they batted and bowled in those situations made a lot of difference. Trinidad has that X-factor. They are very difficult to play against and they a play a different style of cricket. Our fielding too needed to be a lot tighter."
Shukri Conrad, the Cobras coach, went a step further and said: "I hate to use this word, but we choked."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo