In 2009, cricket headed towards an unseen path as the Champions League T20 tournament was created.
An international club cricket T20 tournament, 12 teams from India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand and Australia competed to be crowned champions in the inaugural edition, hosted in India. The format was similar to the 2007-2012 T20 World Cups – four groups of three before the top two from each group progressed to the Super 8s.
The Super 8s would see two groups of four clash against each other (except those who had faced each other in the group stage) before progressing to the semi-finals and final.
Having won the 2008-09 edition of the Big Bash League, New South Wales had a golden opportunity to do the double. But before they could think about winning the trophy, they first had to pass the group and league stages to make the knockout stages.
October 9 2009: Match 2 – NSW vs Eagles, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi Facing the Eagles from South Africa, the Blues couldn’t afford to start the tournament with a loss. Batting first, NSW were in trouble early as Phillip Hughes departed for one in the second over.
Despite David Warner (23 off 31) struggling for timing on the slow Delhi surface, a half-century from Simon Katich (53 off 41) and cameos from Moises Henriques (27 off 19) and Ben Rohrer (22* off 15) saw NSW post 6-144.
The Eagles lost four wickets in the powerplay and never recovered, limping to 9/91. With a bowling attack of Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger, Stuart Clark and Nathan Hauritz, the Blues showed they were capable of defending low scores.
October 11 2009: Match 6 – NSW vs Sussex Sharks, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi Sussex had a stronger outfit compared to the Eagles, with Piyush Chawla, Yasir Arafat and Dwayne Smith in the Sharks team. Despite losing no wickets in the powerplay, the Blues were behind the 8-ball as they were 2-40 from the ninth over. Moises Henriques (51* off 33) came out swinging early as he and Phil Hughes (62* off 64) propelled NSW to 2-130.
Once again, NSW’s disciplined bowling attack would see Sussex muster up only 8-95 in 20 overs. For his efforts with bat and ball (3/23), Henriques was adjudged player of the match. NSW started the tournament well on difficult wickets, but the real test was yet to come as they would have to encounter Trinidad and Tobago and Somerset in the Super 8s.
October 16 2009: Match 15 – NSW vs Trinidad vs Tobago, Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad Having beaten the Eagles in the group stage, NSW started the Super 8s with two points. A victory against Caribbean powerhouse Trinidad and Tobago would all but confirm a semi-final spot.
Half-centuries from David Warner (63 off 41) and Phil Hughes (83 off 64) saw the Blues primed to post 180+. But Dwayne Bravo’s final over would go for a mere six runs as NSW posted a competitive 4-170. Surely with NSW’s bowling, Trinidad and Tobago would find this too much?
Trinidad and Tobago’s run-chase started poorly, losing three wickets in five overs. The Trinidad middle-order revives the innings, but poor running between the wickets sees the Red Steel 6-120 after 16 overs. With figures of 1-6 after two overs, Moises Henriques is given the ball by captain Simon Katich.
All-rounder Kieron Pollard goes beserk, smashing Henriques for 27 runs as Trinidad were back in the game. With 16 needed off 12, Henriques bowls the 19th over as well. Unsurprisingly, Pollard took him to the cleaners again as the Red Steel won by four wickets with nine balls to spare.
Pollard had smashed 54 off 18, and his onslaught would change his career forever – now one of the greatest T20 cricketers of all time. As for NSW, it was back to the drawing board before a must-win clash against Somerset.
October 18, 2009: Match 18 – NSW vs Somerset, Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad In a must-win clash, anything less than two points for NSW would be catastrophic. Bowling first for the first time in the tournament, the Blues were outstanding with the ball – restricting Somerset to 7-111.
Despite NSW’s brilliance, Somerset made some questionable decisions in their batting innings such as Jos Buttler coming to bat at number nine. Who knows why Somerset made that decision? Perhaps Buttler wanted to live every third-grader’s dream – bat at nine and not bowl.
David Warner’s onslaught in the powerplay (40 off 18) ensured there were no hiccups as the Blues chased down 112 by six wickets in the 12th over.
With a commanding victory and the Eagles losing to Trinidad and Tobago, NSW progressed to the semi-finals. A certain foe was waiting for them, ready to avenge the 2008-09 Big Bash final.
October 21, 2009: 1st semi-final – NSW vs Victoria, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi In an All Australian semi-final, the stakes were massively high for both sides. NSW’s luck with the toss continued to go their way as the Blues elected to bat first. Another onslaught from David Warner (48 off 25) and a calm 35 from Phil Hughes ensured the Blues got a fast start in the powerplay.
Dan Smith, Simon Katich, Moises Henriques and Ben Rohrer all got starts as their mini-contributions would see the Blues post 7-169.
Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz went nuts with the new ball as Victoria collapsed to 3-6 in the third over. The Victorians failed to recover as another professional bowling performance from NSW saw the Blues win by 79 runs. With a convincing performance in all three facets, it was a big statement leading up to the final.
October 23, 2009: Final – NSW vs Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad This is it — the two best teams of the 2009 CLT20 facing off each other in the final. A week ago, Kieron Pollard battered Moises Henriques en-route to a shock victory. Would that still play on the Blues’ minds?
For the first time in the tournament, NSW lost the toss and were sent in to bat first. But in a big game, runs on the board could spell curtains for Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad started the powerplay well as Warner (19 off 16), and Hughes (3 off 5) were sent back to the sheds early. No one in NSW’s top five scored over 20 as the Blues found themselves in deep trouble at 6-83 in the 12th over.
Everything was going Trinidad and Tobago’s way, and someone needed to step up for NSW. After a few quiet overs, Steve Smith (33 off 26) and Brett Lee (48 off 31) upped the ante in the final five overs, and the Blues posted 9-159. With the batting firepower Trinidad and Tobago possessed alongside the x-factor of Kieron Pollard, would it be enough runs on the board?
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Trinidad slogged their way to 37 runs after four overs, except there’s one problem. They lost three wickets courtesy of Lee and Smith holding their nerves. Drying up the runs with Stuart Clark, Doug Bollinger and co, Trinidad found themselves at 5-68 at the halfway stage.
Just like a week ago, it seemed that Pollard would have to pull off a blinder. But could he deliver in a pressure game?
NSW kept on plugging away with wickets, but Pollard continued his counter-attack. With 47 required off 31, Pollard stood in the way of NSW winning the title. But Hauritz had other ideas.
Fearlessly tossing the ball up and giving it more air, Pollard mistimed one straight to the hands of Lee at long-on. Stuart Clark cleaned up the tail in the 16th over as the Blues defeated Trinidad and Tobago by 41 runs.
The boys in blue had become the club T20 champions of the world, and rightfully so. NSW had an inexperienced batting line-up, but the experience of Simon Katich ensured the batting rarely faltered and posted par totals on difficult pitches.
Bar nine balls of Pollard mercilessly smashing Henriques all over Hyderabad, NSW’s bowling was the best attack of the tournament.
Having a winner in Matthew Mott immensely helped NSW as well. The bloke instilled a winning culture in the NSW men’s team and is currently doing an outstanding job with the Southern Stars.
NSW were heavy underdogs in the tournament as one of the IPL teams were expected to win. They knew their strengths and played to their strengths. Playing a smart and fearless brand of cricket, NSW trumped every team they came across in the 2009 CLT20.
NSW Blues – the first champions of the Champions League T20 tournament. Something cricket history will never be able to eradicate.