The final stretch of the Champions League Twenty20 has been saved the ignominy of becoming a damp squib. The crowd turnout was already low and the absence of an Indian team from either of the semifinals would have flashed empty stands on TV screens.
Thankfully, Royal Challengers Bangalore
(RCB) unbelievably scaled a mountain of runs on Wednesday against South Australian Redbacks, ensuring the first semi-final against New South Wales Blues (NSW) at their home turf on Friday.
Had RCB lost, Mumbai Indians (MI) would have been the only Indian face left and with them playing in Bangalore, the second semi-final in Chennai would have had two foreign teams with no local connect.
Both RCB and MI have played enough at these grounds to yank some home advantage. RCB know their ground only too well. MI, on the other hand, are still guessing over the pitches at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
MI coach Shaun Pollock used the word 'interesting' to describe the situation where the tracks were slow and required grafting but suddenly produced runs in the last game here.
"We've managed to get some experience in the last two games and we'll be able to adapt very well," the former South Africa all-rounder said.
Mumbai Indians were beset by an injury worry after all-rounder Kieron Pollard was hit on his hand during training on Thursday evening and was rushed to the hospital for a scan.
On Thursday, the RCB and NSW Blues take on each other and it could be as dazzling as the RCB-Redbacks clash. David Warner, who notched highest CLT20 score with an onslaught on CSK, will open with another of his kind, Shane Watson.
Warner was on Wednesday evening basking in the glory of that innings at a Chennai hotel with a few trainees clamouring for his attention. He and his team would have loved to stay back but had to jet to Bangalore after RCB won. The flat Bangalore track may just be the one he is wishing for, and with the likes of Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Virat Kohli in the opposition ranks, the game could be another high-scoring affair.
Watson isn't fit to bowl and skipper Simon Katich admitted the loss and helplessness of having to go with the medical advice that doesn't allow the all-rounder to bowl.
His other bowlers struggled a bit when the Chennai wicket aided batting and the Bangalore track could throw up similar problems. One thing all bowlers will have to be wary of is that the final overs haven't spared even the likes of Cape Cobras's Dale Steyn, who went for runs in his last over in successive games. But Pollock said of his key bowler, "(Lasith) Malinga will have to work out a plan." It will be true for other teams too.
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