The Auckland Aces seem to have taken many people by surprise by being so competitive this far into the Champions League T20.
I predicted that they would make the semi-finals at the start of the tournament. Here's why:
The Aces have not lost any players to any other teams or injury. Every player was available for them. This is something that most teams can not say.
The Aces have 12 players in their squad with international experience. This makes a big difference as they are more used to playing in different conditions, and in front of bigger crowds.
South Africa at this time of the year is similar to New Zealand in late November. The pitches are a bit unpredictable, the weather is changeable and the outfields are a similar pace. Not many other teams are comfortable in these conditions.
The HRV Cup has only 6 teams in it. This means that the player pool is not diluted much. Most teams in the New Zealand competition have at least 6 international players in them, if not more. There are no easy games, and not many players that you can target. The proof of this is that most NZ players have significantly better averages when playing domestic cricket overseas than when playing at home (batting and bowling).
The Aces have a raft of players who are outstanding at fielding and running between the wickets. This is often the difference between teams in close matches. With Kitchen, Hira, Guptill and Vincent they have 4 of the best fielders in world cricket. There are less easy runs against Auckland, and they are so quick between the wickets that they find runs that many other teams can't score, by hitting the ball straight to a fielder and running.
For the last couple of years the Aces played a short walk from a good friend's place, and so I saw a lot of them play. This naturally results in me having a certain bias towards them. But at least I can admit it.