BANAGALORE - The Champions League Twenty20 2014 is approaching a phase where the various permutations and combinations surrounding the qualification become the central focus. With Kolkata Knight Riders having already qualified from Group A, the race for the second spot is headed for a tight finish, with all the other teams, at least mathematically, having a chance to go through.

The equation for Lahore Lions and Dolphins, bottom two in the group and set to lock horns on Saturday, is straightforward. The loser gets knocked out, the winner just about stays alive. If no result is possible, as was the case in the game between Chennai Super Kings and Lahore in Bangalore on Thursday, Dolphins are out.

Dolphins’ chances of qualifying for the semifinal are bleak anyway. Having lost both their matches so far, they not only have to win big, but also must hope for a number of other results to go their way. The South African domestic T20 champions had a chance to kickstart their tournament on a high against Perth Scorchers, but Mitchell Marsh’s late heroics left them stunned. The huge defeat to Chennai in their next match made qualification improbable, but Morne van Wyk, their skipper, said that his team was not too bothered about the future.

“We first have to win the next two games to give ourselves any chance,” he said. “We’re right now thinking of getting our first points, and then, if the situation comes up, we can think about the rest.” Dolphins’ bowlers conceded 242 – the joint highest team total in CLT20 history – against Chennai, but their batsmen have been in decent form. They scored 164 and 188 in their two matches, and had different contributors on both occasions. They also have the advantage of having played their previous match in Bangalore, and if enough of their batsmen fire together, they could pose a stiff challenge for Lahore’s bowlers.

Van Wyk hoped that his young batsmen would learn from the way Chennai batted in their previous match and convert their starts into bigger scores. “We’ve had some promising 20s and 30s, but that was the difference between us and Chennai,” he said. “(Suresh) Raina and (Brendon) McCullum converted their starts and that took the game away from us. We bat deep, which means we can be very positive, but we don’t want to be happy with 20s and 30s. It will help in posting decent scores, but not match-winning totals.”

Lahore, on the other hand, have played like any other team from Pakistan – inconsistently and unpredictably. They made a confident entry into the main tournament by winning two of their three qualifiers, but after a loss to Kolkata and a washout, they find themselves in a corner.

Their batting is top heavy and a lot depends on Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez, the captain. Shehzad, who made a 42-ball 59 against Kolkata, has been in fine form, but will need some support from his opening partner Nasir Jamshed, who has only scored 61 runs in his last eight T20 innings. Hafeez and Umar Akmal have shown flashes of brilliance, but they need to be more consistent.

Lahore’s strength is their bowling, as is evident from the fact that the loss to Kolkata was the first occasion since March 2012 that they failed to defend a total. Aizaz Cheema, with ten wickets from four matches, is the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, and has been well supported by Wahab Riaz, Hafeez, Asif Raza and Adnan Rasool, who has been reported for a suspect action but can continue to bowl for the moment. However, the bowlers have been let down by some pedestrian fielding.

There is likely to be little spectator interest for the first match of Saturday’s double-header, but weather permitting – the forecast is for thunderstorms – it could set the tone for a crucial day in the race for the second semifinalist from Group A.


LAHORE LIONS: M Hafeez (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Siddique, Umar Akmal (wk), Nasir Jamshed, Salman Ali, Asif Raza, Mustafa Iqbal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema, Imran Ali, Saad Naseem, Adnan Rasool, M Saeed, Ali Manzoor.

DOLPHINS: Morne van Wyk (capt, wk), Kyle Abbott, Craig Alexander, Cody Chetty, Cameron Delport, Daryn Dupavillon, Robert Frylinck, Keshav Maharaj, Sibonelo Makhanya, Andile Phehlukwayo, Prenelan Subrayen, Daryn Smit, Jonathan Vandiar, Vaughn Van Jaarsveld, Khayelihle Zondo.