Mohali: The Champions League Twenty20 proper is just about two days old, too early to start talking qualification and elimination perhaps, but the possibility of early elimination will most certainly occupy the mind space of both Brisbane Heat and Titans.
Having both been at the receiving end in their respective opening matches, Brisbane and Titans will leave no stone unturned in their bid to pick up their first points when they go head-to-head in their second Group B encounter on Tuesday (September 24), at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
A second successive loss in the five-team group will push the vanquished to be brink of exit and take their fate out of their own hands. Consequently, there will be a certain desperation to their cricket and while that need not necessarily translate into quality fare, it will ensure that the team that ends up on the losing side wasn't at least found wanting in effort or desire.
The Titans have clearly the more superior side, and will look back at their clash against Chennai Super Kings in Ranchi will a certain ruefulness. With AB de Villiers in the forefront and Henry Davids, the skipper, overcoming a hesitant start to make a half-century, they put runs on the board, but then ran into a tartar in the dew, which made things very difficult for their bowlers.
Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey got Chennai off to a blistering start in their quest for a massive target - even if 186 under the circumstances wasn't really worth that exact number - and a reasonably competent attack manned among others by Morne Morkel, Marchant de Lange and Roelof van der Merwe fairly wilted under the onslaught. Despite the cushion of runs on the board, the Titans were always mindful of the debilitating effects of the dew that reduced the ball to a bar of soap. The toss proved a crucial element in the outcome; if the Titans are looking for any consolation, it will come from the knowledge that Tuesday's match is a 4pm affair and in any case, the dew hardly had a role to play during the qualifying phase of the tournament at the same venue last week.
Brisbane were a powerhouse during the Big Bash League back home in Australia, but have come here with a severely weakened squad. Three players who played influential roles in the BBL have opted to play for their respective IPL franchises - Shane Watson for Rajasthan Royals, Mitchell Johnson for Mumbai Indians and Thisara Perera for Sunrisers Hyderabad - while Luke Pomersbach made himself unavailable for personal reasons.
Consequently, James Hopes doesn't have huge resources, both in terms of skill and experience, to fall back on. Brisbane were comprehensively shown up in their opening fixture by Trinidad & Tobago, themselves missing key first-choice options in Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Kevon Copper, in a low-scoring game that seldom rose above the ordinary, though it must be stressed that they will relish the conditions in Mohali far more than they did in Ranchi.
The presence of de Villiers alone makes the Titans formidable opponents. South Africa's limited-overs captain is among the top three most destructive T20 batsmen in the world, and he showcased his full repertoire against a very versatile Chennai attack. At once orthodox and innovative, he can take the game away from the opposition in the bat of an eyelid. Brisbane will not be unaware of the huge threat he poses, but there is very little they can do by way of planning because de Villiers has shown that the best laid plans make no difference to him.
Such is the nature of the Twenty20 beast that often, one man can make all the difference. The Titans have that one man in the mercurial de Villiers while Brisbane have had all their proven match-winners snatched away. It will therefore necessitate their experienced stars, among them Hopes, Nathan Hauritz, Dan Christian and Kemar Roach, the West Indian speedster, to show the way if they are to remain competitive. The advantage is clearly with the Titans, but that doesn't really mean a great deal in Twenty20 cricket. Or so Brisbane will hope.
Brisbane Heat: James Hopes (capt), Joe Burns, Peter Forrest, Dan Christian, Chris Lynn, Chris Hartley (wk), Ben Cutting, Chris Sabburg, Nathan Hauritz, Kemar Roach, Alister McDermott, Matthew Gale, Domonic Michael, Cameron Gannon, Brad Ipson.
Titans: Henry Davids (capt), Jacques Rudolph, AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Heino Kuhn, David Wiese, Roelof van der Merwe, Mangaliso Mosehle (wk), Morne Morkel, Marchant de Lange, Rowan Richards, Ethy Mbhalati, Cornelius de Villiers, Eden Links, Graeme van Buuren.