South African champions Cape Cobras and their Australian counterparts New South Wales Blues face off on Saturday in what promises to be a humdinger of a game in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
The lung-opener in Group A pits the all-round strength of the Cobras against the power and pace of the Blues who are seeking to regain the trophy they had won in the inaugural edition two seasons ago when it was also played in India.
The Blues, boasting of a bunch of proven match-winners like all-rounder Shane Watson, explosive opener David Warner and led by the experienced Simon Katich, would be fancying their chances against the Cobras, captained by Justin Kemp who, incidentally, was part of the Chennai Super Kings squad that last year won the Champions League played in South Africa.
However, the Cobras are on a high having won the Standard Bank Pro20, the equivalent of Indian Premier League, and also the Super Sport series which is a four-day format competition last season.
The inclusion of fast bowler Dale Steyn, undoubtedly among the best new ball bowlers in the world currently, has certainly added teeth to the Cobras bowling that also seamers Charl Langeveldt and Rory Kleinveldt who were among the leading wicket-takers back home with 45 and 46 wickets respectively. Add to the mix the off-breaks of Jean-Paul Duminy and left-arm spin of young Michael Rippon, and Kemp might appear spoilt for choice.
However, it is the Cobras batting that appear stronger with the likes of the experienced duo of Herschelle Gibbs and Duminy, backed by rookie opener Richard Levi, besides all-rounders Vernon Philander and Kleinveldt, in the ranks.
On the other hand, the Blues, although without their spearhead Doug Bollinger who opted for the Super Kings, still appear good enough to emulate their 2009 feat. They have inducted two young quicks in Patrick Cummins, who has topped 140kmph, and Josh Hazelwood who was the leading wicket-taker with a haul of 13 in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup.
With Katich, Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Hauritz being the spin options, and Watson and Stuart Clark as established frontline seamers, the Blues can justifiably be happy with the balance in their bowling.
In the event, the contest between the two on the morrow promises a lot of fireworks if the city is blessed with fair weather.