A half century by opener Ghulam Bodi and some effective hitting by Neil McKenzie saw Highveld Lions put up a respectable 139 for five against Delhi Daredevils in the first semi-final of the Champions League Twenty20 in Durban on Thursday evening.
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Lions manage 139/5 against DD in the 1st CLT20 semi-final:
On a bouncy Kingsmead pitch, the Daredevils pace quartet did a commendable job as the foundation of Lions' total was based on 59-runs for the fourth wicket added by Bodi and Neil Mckenzie. Bodi scored 50 off 49 balls hit four boundaries and a six while McKenzie who got dropped off consecutive deliveries from Morne Morkel managed an unbeaten 46 off 27 balls with four boundaries and a six.
The breezy day at Kingsmead did make life dificult for the Daredevils fielders as they dropped as many as three catches. The offenders were Unmukt Chand, Umesh Yadav and Kevin Pietersen.
Mahela Jayawardene surprised one and all by opting to sit out which gave David Warner a chance to play the semi-finals.
"We wanted a left-hander who add a punch against their left-arm bowlers," Jayawardene stated when asked by the official broadcasters.
Birthday boy Umesh Yadav provided the initial breakthrough as he induced a thickish edge off Alviro Peterson's bat which was taken by Naman Ojha. It was fuller delivery which Peterson had made room to hit over extra cover. Peterson made 24 off 19 balls with three fours and a six.
Quinton de Kock got a reprieve off Yadav's bowling when his mistimed flat pull-shot went straight Unmukt Chand at deep square leg but the India colts skipper lost the sight of the ball to concede a boundary. De Kock hit a lofted shot off Umesh to get a boundary but another pull-shot ballooned up in the air and Unmukt this time took a well-judged catch.
The bounce in the pitch also helped left-arm spinner Pawan Negi who got one to rear up awkwardly on Dwayne Pretorius as he lobbed an easy catch for stand-in skipper Ross Taylor.
However Bodi and McKenzie stepped up the ante in the back 10 as they got 77 runs. Interestingly, Bodi has a contract with Delhi Daredevils in Indian Premier League.
Earlier, Delhi Daredevils won the toss and elected to field first against Highveld Lions during their first semi-finals match on the on going Champions League Twenty20 tournament at Durban.
Delhi Daredevils' batting might would be put through a stern test by the consistent bowling attack of Highveld Lions when the two sides clash in the first semifinal of the Champions League Twenty20.
While the Daredevils finished their league engagements unbeaten and on top of Group A after two wins and a couple of washouts, the Lions ended second in group B with three victories and a loss from their four preliminary matches.
Delhi are the only IPL side left in contention after three others were knocked out in the group stage itself. The Lions, on the other hand, are one of the two South African sides, the other being Titans, to have reached the semifinals.
Delhi's strength lies in its power-packed batting line-up which boasts of proven match-winners such as Virender Sehwag, skipper Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor. Rising star Unmukt Chand makes it perhaps the best top-five in the tournament.
But the team looked vulnerable the last time weather permitted it to come out in the middle, against Perth Scorchers. Had it not been for a uncharacteristically patient half century by Sehwag, Delhi did stare at defeat against the Scorchers.
David Warner has been warming the benches in this tournament and he will be itching to have a go in case the team management decides to include him in the line-up.
On the bowling front, Delhi's attack looks decent spearheaded by Irfan Pathan and Morne Morkel. The young Umesh Yadav has come good and so has veteran all-rounder Ajit Agarkar, who seems to be rediscovering his form.
The Lions, on the other hand, have been relying on their enterprising bowling to carve out wins.
"We always thought we can make it to the semis and even the final. The guys have been working hard since April, when we lost the final of the MiWay T20 Cup to the Titans. So, it's not a surprise that we're in semi-finals; we were expected to do well," said left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, who has eight wickets in four matches at an economy rate of 4.43.
The only match in which the left-arm pairing of Sohail Tanvir and Dirk Nannes went for runs was against clinical Sydney Sixers.
Delhi batting power up against Lions' bowling consistency:
But they returned to the forefront with a good performance against Yorkshire in their final group match. In the spin department, Phangiso has shown incredible temperament in all his four outings.
The 28-year-old spinner will be high on confidence and poses a serious threat to the Delhi batsmen.
On the batting front, Alviro Petersen, Quinton de Kock and Neil McKenzie are the three main characters in the Lions
Gulam Bodi played a couple of good knocks to start with but came a cropper against Yorkshire and he would look to raise his game in the big game.
Match starts 9pm (IST).
Delhi Daredevils squad: DPMD Jayawardene*, AB Agarkar, U Chand, M Morkel, P Negi, NV Ojha†, IK Pathan, KP Pietersen, AD Russell, AM Salvi, V Sehwag, LRPL Taylor, Y Venugopal Rao, DA Warner, UT Yadav
Highveld Lions squad: AN Petersen*, T Bavuma, GH Bodi, Z de Bruyn, Q de Kock, ND McKenzie, P Matshikwe, CH Morris, DP Nannes, E O'Reilly, AM Phangiso, D Pretorius, Sohail Tanvir, J Symes, TL Tsolekile†