This is a clash of Caribbean flair versus South African utility. Trinidad & Tobago have without a doubt been the team to follow in the competition, blending an accomplished exuberance with a ballistic approach with the bat to stunning effect. Attempting to stop their four-win streak are the Cape Cobras, who topped their group by beating Bangalore and Otago and held their nerve to down Victoria on a dramatic day even as two key players opted out. They haven't been nearly as devastating as T&T, evening showing signs of susceptibility in their last game, but the Cobras are a quality side.
At a time when West Indian cricket is going through turmoil, a band of merry marauders has given Caribbean cricket fans much to be proud of. Daren Ganga's team has taken Twenty20 cricket in India by storm, but few should be surprised by their success: three regional one-day titles and the Stanford 20/20 prize testify to their limited-overs prowess. Cobras be warned, T&T coach Kelvin Williams has said that the best was yet to come.
In a tournament that has veered from one opposite to the other there has been one constant: T&T will dazzle. Arguably the most balanced side, T&T boast powerful batsmen (Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons, William Perkins, Adrian Barath), crafty medium-pacers (Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul), and two effective spinners (Dave Mohammed, Sherwin Ganga). Under a cool leader in Daren Ganga, a comfortable unit that has prepared very well for the Champions League has been unstoppable.
The Cobras haven't been blessed with a torrent of runs from Herschelle Gibbs or the middle order and have had to rely on Andrew Puttick, the only centurion of the competition, JP Duminy and Henry Davids, the only batsmen to cross 50. The manner in which they capitulated to Delhi on a low surface is worrying given it was their last chance ahead of the semi-final, but the Cobras will back their strong batting line-up. They need Gibbs to fire alongside the captain Puttick, and for Charl Langeveldt to return to full fitness.
The advantage for T&T is familiarity with the conditions. They have played three times under the Hyderabad lights and will know, to a large extent, what to expect from the pitch and the conditions. The Cobras, on the other hand, have only played in Hyderabad once during this tournament and that too at a 4pm start. The surfaces used here have been hard and batsmen-friendly with little assistance for the spinners. Win toss, bat first is the way to go.
Watch out for ...
Adrian Barath and Navin Stuart: Both youngsters were thrown in against Eagles and came up trumps. In his first Twenty20 match, Barath announced himself with 63 from 41 balls, while Tobago-born Stewart slammed 33 from 11. Daren Ganga has not committed to saying whether these two would feature in the semi-final, but after outstanding performances it's going to be hard to keep them out.
Herschelle Gibbs: His form has been a major worry for the Cobras heading into this knock-out game: two first-ball ducks and 1 in three innings. But this is a big-game player we're talking about (remember the 2009 IPL final?) and Gibbs will be desperate to remind everyone of his skills while attempting to ensure another South African team doesn't stumble in the semi-final of a tournament. He has the backing of his captain, who called Gibbs the guy for the big occasion.
JP Duminy v Dave Mohammed and Sherwin Ganga: Mohammed and Sherwin Ganga haven't raked in the wickets - they have four and three respectively compared to Dwayne Bravo's ten but they have the lowest economy rates for their side. Sherwin Ganga was Man of the Match against Somerset and Mohammed has foxed a few batsmen with his bag of tricks. Duminy is a quality player of spin and the Cobras best batsman, so how he cracks the pair on a pitch not expected to turn much is going to be seminal in this contest.
Dwayne Bravo: At the end of the league stage, Bravo was the tournament's highest wicket-taker, with ten at an average of 11.70 and an economy rate of 7.31. Against Deccan he bowled one of the best final overs you're going to see in this format. He hasn't done much otherwise but his powerful brand of batting is perfectly suited to the Twenty20 format, and Thursday could be the day when it all comes together.
Road to the semi-finals