On a sluggish track built to suck all skill out of cricket, Moises Henriques found plenty of it to help New South Wales first to an improbable tie and then a win through the Super Over. For the second match in a row, Trinidad & Tobago lost the script after having defended spiritedly for most of the match. Henriques manoeuvred the field - arguably easily manoeuvrable - in the last over to help NSW get the 16 runs for the tie, and then played around with the same bowler, Ravi Rampaul, some more to score 18 in the Super Over. Lendl Simmons hit a six and a four in the chase, but with four required off the last ball, drilled Steve O'Keefe straight down lonf-off's throat.
The tournament is fast resembling like different actors acting out the same play with little improvisation here and there, but to their credit the actors today made it real dramatic. The story for most of the Hyderabad and Chennai games has been: sizzle at start, struggle with the slowness and lowness in the middle and scramble in the end. Both the teams sizzled at top (T&T score 40 in first 5.3, NSW 43 in the first six), both struggled once the ball became soft (T&T managed 21 in the next 5.3 overs, going six overs without a boundary; NSW's next six overs brought 30, and they didn't score a boundary for 8.5 overs). It was the scramble that would decide that match, and T&T's 61 off the last six only matched NSW's 50 off their last four, producing the third tie in Champions League history.
Like all sluggish tracks do, this one in Chennai too took a lot skill out of the equation for about 39 overs. The bowlers couldn't bowl wicket-taking deliveries, but they could stifle the batsmen by bowling slow, stump to stump, and short of a length. The batsmen found it incredibly hard to time the ball. Simmons and Warner didn't face those problems at the top, although Warner did play out a maiden from Samuel Badree. Simmons hit through the line, and Warner punished width as they got their respective sides to good starts.
O'Keefe's non-spinning delivery in the seventh over started the first-innings turnaround, dismissing Adrian Barath. Sunil Narine's flicked legbreak induced the top edge from Shane Watson in the seventh over of the chase. Mud-wrestling followed in both innings as frustrated batsmen played intemperate shots to lose their wickets. Henriques got Simmons and Darren Bravo, Sherwin Ganga accounted for Warner and Daniel Smith. T&T: 69 for 3 after 11.5, NSW: 72 for 3 after 11.5.
T&T's scramble began in the 15th over when Steven Smith offered them two long hops, which were hit for fours by Denesh Ramdin. In the same over, Billy Bowden, the third umpire, reprieved Darren Ganga, who went onto add a further 11 off 7. The real game-breaking scramble came through a two-over association between Ravi Rampaul and Kevin Cooper, which brought them 25 runs. It wasn't all skill: two of their boundaries came through pulls through long-on and long-off. Rampaul finished with an un unbeaten 15 off 7.
Rampaul wasn't done with the scramble, though. He would bowl two out of NSW's last three overs, with 36 to defend. He began with a no-ball, a call he contested heatedly. The replays showed his front foot well in, and no replays of the back foot was available. Be that as it may Rampaul came back with a smashing yorker on the free-hit, and followed it up Simon Katich's wicket in the same over.
With 16 to defend, Rampaul began the last over with his trusted practice of going round the stumps and bowling yorkers on off and outside off. Henriques wreaked havoc with his head by walking across and flicking the first two past the short fine leg. These were tow incredible shots: they were not length balls but near yorkers, and he whipped them late in order to miss the fielder. He could manage a single off the third ball, but trusted Pat Cummins enough to take a couple off the fourth.
Selected earlier today for the Australian national side to tour South Africa, Cummins made room, got a length ball, and somehow squeezed it between mid-on and midwicket for four. Cruelly it came down to two required off the last ball. Would T&T still offer the tie on the platter? They bowled the last ball with just four fielders inside the circle, but one of them- midwicket - wasn't quite at the edge of the circle. Cummins found that man, and we were going into the Super Over.
NSW sent the form-man, Henriques, to bat ahead of Shane Watson. T&T persisted with Rampaul, who persisted with bowling round the stumps. He began with a dot, but a poor throw from their worst fielder - Bravo - allowed Henriques a second off the second ball. The way the game panned out, T&T would have taken any other man than Henriques on strike. Henriques hit fours off the next four balls: through such varied areas as midwicket, point, mid-on and fine leg.
More drama followed just before T&T could bat their Super Over. T&T saw the ball being tossed up to O'Keefe, and wanted to promote Bravo, originally slated to bat at 3. Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee, was alert and wouldn't have any of it. With Bravo still kicking the ground, O'Keefe began to bowl left-arm spin to two right-hand batsmen. With 15 required off last three, Simmons managed to clear a leaping long-on. O'keefe followed it up with a die. Cummins followed it up with a misfiled at square leg to allow a four. Simmons timed the last ball perfectly, but it was pitched just too close to him to allow the elevation. It was a matter of inches in the end.