Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sussex fight back, eliminator to decide result

Sussex 119 for 7 (Gatting 25, de Villiers 2-20, du Preez 2-23) tied with Eagles 119 for 4 (Rossouw 65, Chawla 2-17, Hamilton-Brown 2-15)

A desperate swing by Ryan McLaren off the last ball of the chase went screeching towards the deep midwicket boundary to seal the first tie of the Champions League which would be decided by the one-over eliminator. The Eagles were cruising to victory at one stage in the chase of a modest 120 but suddenly started to crumble under pressure in the last five overs. Yasir Arafat leaked 11 off the final over and took the ball again for Sussex for the one-over shootout.

20 overs Sussex 119 for 7 (Gatting 25, de Villiers 2-20, du Preez 2-23) v Eagles

The stakes were high in this knockout clash in Group A, but at the end of 20 overs it was difficult to place bets on a winner. Sussex opted to bat but the top order failed to give a good account of themselves against the Eagles, who put in a disciplined and enthusiastic performance in the field. Sussex limped to 119, below-par by Twenty20 standards, but a potentially match-wining one on a typically slow-and-low pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

The Sussex openers came out with a clear-cut plan to get off to a blazing start before scoring became difficult against the slower bowlers. With the strong possibility of the odd ball keeping low, going by the trend of the earlier games, the strategy was to chip down the track, get close to the pitch of the ball and muscle it over the infield.

Not that it worked consistently for Sussex. Luke Wright, making his first appearance after a one-match absence, wasted no time in settling in as he sent his first ball over the sightscreen. He followed that up with another clean hit against Cornelius de Villiers before the bowler hit back in the same over by knocking back the off stump following an overconfident swish across the line. Sussex lost their trump card at the top and the batsmen rarely dominated since his departure.

Chris Nash and Rory Hamilton-Brown too perished trying to force the pace. While Nash offered a dolly to mid-on, Hamilton-Brown's flat-batted slap would have screeched down the ground in normal circumstances, but de Villiers' lightning reflexes got in the way. The bowler managed to cup it with both hands low to his right despite having to change direction in his follow through.

With the wicketkeeper upto the stumps, Sussex found it difficult to hit with confidence. Their top draw in the middle order, Dwayne Smith, too struggled to put the ball away and in frustration, inside edged onto his off stump. Michael Yardy and Ed Joyce had to grind it out by picking up the singles. There staged a brief recovery with a fifth-wicket stand of 24 before Yardy chopped Ryan Bailey onto his stumps.

Sussex couldn't push on for a while after he departed and the boundary drought lasted 32 balls before Joe Gatting clubbed du Preez over deep midwicket. Gatting and Piyush Chawla tried to push the scoring towards the end and succeeded in finding a couple of boundaries. Victoria found it hard to chase a similar score earlier in the evening, and Eagles will know their task won't be very easy in this winner-takes-all clash.

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