Roelof van der Merwe hit the third-fastest fifty in Champions League history against KKR (AFP)
Bangalore: The race for the semi-finals in Group B intensifies as Somerset get ready to face off with South Australian Redbacks in a Champions League Twenty20 encounter on Saturday.
The two teams were not fancied to go far, yet both have put in some strong performances to stay in content_cnion for the last-four. The Redbacks recovered from a heavy 50-run defeat to the Warriors in their opening match to ease to a 19-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders in the following game. Meanwhile, Somerset are still unbeaten, having come through qualifying with convincing wins over Auckland Aces and KKR, before defeating the IPL side again to begin their campaign in the main draw on a winning note.
That group game against Kolkata showed just how far Somerset have come since their last-ball win in the first game, comfortably chasing down the stiff 162-run target. The hero for the English champions was Roelof van der Merwe, who set the field ablaze with a 40-ball 73, the third-fastest fifty in Champions League history. The South African contributed with the ball as well, conceding just 21 runs off 4 overs despite seeing two catches dropped off him in the 18th and 20 overs.
In fact, fellow spinner Murali Kartik and medium pacers Lewis Gregory and Peter Trego have all done well so far, though KKR got 78 off the last six overs thanks to Yusuf Pathan's power-hitting and part-timer Arul Suppiah's 30-run over.
Like van der Merwe, Trego has also played a part with the bat, scoring 117 runs in 3 games, though at a strike rate of 97.50.
The unfancied Redbacks, led by Michael Klinger, also don't have too many stars in their line-up, yet the batting which had failed against the Warriors bounced back spectacularly to post 188 against Kolkata. That score was largely possible due to an unbeaten 70 (40) by Australian Callum Ferguson, another player, like van der Merwe, who is looking to cement his place in his national side. The Redbacks will hope for more runs from openers Daniel Harris and Klinger, while Daniel Christian has already shown he can provide the fireworks down the order.
Harris and Christian have also led the bowling attack, well-supported by medium pacers Gary Putland and Kane Richardson, though more will be expected of spinner Nathan Lyon, who recently impressed on his Australia debut in Sri Lanka.
Given their form, Somerset will start as favourites against the inconsistent Redbacks, though both sides have similar line-ups, including a dependence on slower bowlers. The match will be crucial to determine the fate of the group, and KKR, who play the Warriors later on Saturday, will take special interest in the result as all four sides jostle for qualification.
South Australian Redbacks: Michael Klinger (c), Aaron O'Brien, Adil Rashid, Callum Ferguson, Cameron Borgas, Chadd Sayers, Daniel Christian, Daniel Harris, Gary Putland, James Smith, Kane Richardson, Nathon Lyon, Shaun Tait, Tim Ludeman and Tom Cooper
Somerset: Alfonso Thomas (c), Alex Barrow, Nick Compton, Adam Dibble, George Dockrell, James Hildreth, Chris Jones, Murali Kartik, Steve Kirby, Craig Meschede, Steve Snell, Arul Suppiah, Peter Trego, Roelof van der Merwe, Gemaal Hussain.