Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo
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Delightful fast bowling from Shaun Tait, solid back-up medium-pace from Daniel Christian and a near-perfect chase from Daniel Harris and Michael Klinger, who continues to cling onto the golden bat with his third match-winning fifty in three games, took South Australia Redbacks to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
For about 25 overs, this had everything a Twenty20 game should have. Tait's pace like fire, sensational fielding, Ross Taylor's counter-punching, Tait's comeback to get Taylor, Dillon du Preez's stunner in the second half of the innings, some more special fielding, and Christian's three-wicket last over. Dale Steyn and Praveen Kumar followed it up with a spirited defence, but the South Australia openers played sensibly, taking sharp singles and getting occasional boundaries. Once South Australia had kept the opening seamers wicketless, Royal Challengers Bangalore's bowling became progressively looser, misfields and dropped catches found their way in and the last 100 runs were a cruise in the heavy Durban breeze.
Tait set up the night beautifully. He didn't quite burn the speed gun, but bowled quick enough and got disconcerting bounce from deliveries fuller than bouncers. Manish Pandey top-edged a quick back-of-a-length ball in his first over, and an inside edge to a surprise full toss saved Rahul Dravid in his second. In between those overs, Callum Ferguson accounted for Robin Uthappa with a diving catch at cover-point even as all eyes had moved to the square boundary.
Taylor, though, seemed to be playing a different game, racing along to 46 off 26 out of a team total of 62 by the end of the eighth over. Then Klinger, who had got Dravid through the early use of Aaron O'Brien's left-arm spin, called back Tait. That was the easy part. It is not easy for the bowler who knows he has to give his captain a wicket in six deliveries. Tait started with a short ball, not quite the bouncer, that beat the keeper. Later in the over, Taylor bent his knees to play a length ball. It seemed the correct action until it kicked up to take the shoulder of the bat. Job done.
Klinger was making superb bowling changes; legspinner Cullen Bailey removed Virat Kohli in his first over. du Preez then produced the surprise of the night, giving anything pitched on a length some tonk, hitting four sixes and a four in his 26-ball 46. Harris, running from long-on towards cow corner, almost latched onto one of those. He dived full length to his right and took the catch, then realised his proximity to the rope, and flicked the ball back in. A relay throw found both du Preez and Cameron White at the same end, but the replays showed Harris' shoulder had just touched the boundary-rope skirting before he released the ball. Strangely, though, the umpires called it a four when it should have been a six.
It would hardly matter in the end. Nor would the drop catch in the next over when du Preez drilled one short and wide delivery back at Bailey. For just when du Preez looked like setting a formidable target, Christian produced a bouncer to get him out. The 2.5 overs after that produced just 20.
Harris and Klinger, already with a century stand in this tournament to their credit, then backed up their contributions in the field with another match-winning effort. They are both pretty similar in their batting styles: strong on the cut, low on risks, and possessing motor feet. It is difficult to tell them apart. Their running between the wickets, at times with the ball dropped on the pitch, frustrated the bowlers. In the second over, Klinger struggled against both Steyn's pace and sharp inward movement. If this was a tennis rally, Klinger had been pushed right into a corner. From there he produced the winner, first through an on-drive for four, then back-to-back cut fours in Steyn's next, with not much width on offer.
du Preez, who made up for Jacques Kallis' absence with the bat, ceded territory with the ball, bowling gentle length deliveries in the sixth over. Harris hit him for three boundaries to bring up South Australia's 50. From then on the stroke-play grew more attractive, the batsmen matched each other shot for shot, Dravid missed a tough chance at point when Klinger was 31, Pandey dropped a fairly easy one when Harris was 43 and the asking-rate fell below a run a ball in the 13th over.
Despite the two quick wickets that followed, it ceased being a contest too soon for a match that had such an intense first half.
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Delightful fast bowling from Shaun Tait, solid back-up medium-pace from Daniel Christian, and a near-perfect chase from Daniel Harris and Michael Klinger took South Australia to the semi-finals