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As has become the norm these days with sporting events there’ll be a concert at Melrose Arch on Friday night to announce the “official” start of the Champions League T20 tournament.
DJ Earworm (from New York), Mi Casa and Flash Republic will get the feet tapping before the bats get to bashing in the opening exchanges on the field this weekend.
Sadly for Hampshire, Uva Next, the Sialkot Stallions and Trinidad and Tobago, their interests in the event ended after just one game, a major flaw in the pre-qualifying system of a tournament that is already heavily weighted in favour of the Indian Premier League.
Of the 10 participating teams, four are from the IPL, a figure that is far too high, but given that it is the BCCI who hold the majority stake for the event, gallingly understandable.
The balance of the tournament’s participants comprise two teams from South Africa, two from Australia and then the two teams which survived the cruelly rapid qualifying phase; the Auckland Aces and Yorkshire.
However, the organisers are hoping the presence of Kevin Pietersen for the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday and before that the Nashua Titans, in the first match of the main draw of the competition, will put bums on seats and heighten interest for the competition. The Titans, the South African domestic champions last season, will play the Perth Scorchers – runners-up from Australia’s Big Bash League – who feature Herschelle Gibbs in their line-up, in the opening match at SuperSport Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Titans, a bit like the Lions, are coming off a couple of weeks of four-day cricket – which included a big loss to the Warriors in Port Elizabeth – and a couple of “warm-up” matches in the last week ahead of a critical tie against a solid looking Perth side.
Besides Gibbs, the Western Australian outfit can also call on Paul Collingwood, who memorably led England to their World T20 title in 2010, Marcus North, the former Australian Test player who is their captain, and Simon Katich, who opened the batting for Australia when they last played a Test series against South Africa Down Under in 2009.
The Titans will be heavily reliant on the experience of Alfonso Thomas, who almost single-handedly got them into the final last season.
Pietersen, who is still at the centre of controversy over those text messages he sent to some players in the South African team during the Test series earlier this year, will be in action alongside Morné Morkel for the Delhi Daredevils in their match against the IPL champions, the Kolkata Knight Riders, featuring Jacques Kallis.
As per usual with Pietersen, the reception he receives from the crowd will be interesting, but having not played on a big stage since the second Test at Headingley, he will be keen to put on a show before he gets along with “re-integrating” into the England set-up.
The 10 teams are divided into two groups of five, with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the semi-finals. The tournament’s champions will be crowned at the Wanderers on October 28, and be given a cheque for $2,3-million.
A: Titans (SA), Perth Scorchers (Aus), Kolkota KnightRiders (Ind), Delhi Daredevils (Ind), Auckland Aces (NZ)
B: Highveld Lions (SA), Mumbai Indians (Ind), Chennai Super Kings (Ind), Sydney Sixers (Aus), Yorkshire (Eng)
Saturday – Titans v Perth Scorchers, 1.30pm, Centurion; Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata KnightRiders, Centurion, 5.30pm
Sunday – Chennai Super Kings v Sydney Sixers, Wanderers 1.30pm; Highveld Lions v Mumbai Indians, Wanderers 5.30pm – The Star