Just like it started, the Champions League T20 came to a rather unspectacular conclusion on Sunday. The favourites cruised to a very easy win while the home side flopped and surrendered meekly. They seemed completely out of their depth and even their usual go-to players looked clueless – a rare sight for a team that has been so magnificent throughout the tournament.
It’s been one of those competitions nobody really paid attention to, aside from dropping the occasional cricitism. The lack of interest is understandable, though. With a questionable qualification system, apparent favouritism towards IPL sides and yet another T20 tournament in a year where fans seem to be gagging on the format – well, the CLT20 felt like block on the cricketing calendar; one which journalists and fans alike approached with a shrug of the shoulders and a deep sigh.
The attitude wasn’t quite the same for the final, however. The Wanderers had sold out and local cricket fans crammed into the stadium with bated breath. Very little of the electricity in the air emitted from the middle of the pitch, though, and there’s no doubt that the fans will feel short-changed after the way the local side performed.
The Lions, who had been sent in to bat, got off to the worst start possible as their top order flopped and they catapulted to 9-4. Gulam Bodi, who was the top run-scorer of the tournament before the match started, got off the mark with a six but followed up his power-hitting with a hideous slog down to a deep square leg, giving the Sixers an early breakthrough.
Quinton de Kock then followed, trying to go for a big hit, but got an edge down to third man instead – and the Lions were looking in all sorts of trouble very early on. Stalwart Neil McKenzie and Alviro Petersen then followed in quick succession, and everything looked lost for the home side.
With things going so badly, it seemed almost reasonable to send Sohail Tanvir in as a pinch-hitter at five, and while he didn’t pinch much else than the run-rate, the Lions at least stopped the spill of wickets for a brief while.
It was only Jean Symes who seemed intent on getting anything done, and he made the track look like a squash court, hammering 51 off 46 while the lower order stuck around to help the home team to 121-10 in their 20 overs.
There was nothing wrong with the pitch – the Wanderers track is a belter, and the only thing that was wrong seemed to be Lions’ approach, or lack thereof. Their paltry score was never going to be enough on a track which the groundsman termed, “as close to the 438-9 track as he could get”.
And the groundsman was right. Michael Lumb and Brad Haddin were relentless in their assault as they chased down the total with 45 runs still to spare. Lumb hammered 82 off 42 to become the tournament’s leading run scorer, while Brad Haddin chipped in with 37 off 33 to see the Aussies home as the Sixers went unbeaten for the entire tournament.
As Petersen strolled up to a collect the runners-up cheque of $1.3 million, he had a wry smile on his face. It’s a nice sum of money for a domestic team for three weeks’ worth of work. The skipper admitted, though, that his charges weren’t quite up for it on the big day.
“We started the game poorly, but we did have a very good tournament. Nobody gave us a chance at the start of it and we proved people wrong. We were outplayed in this match and it might have been a bit of nerves, but the Sixers played better cricket than us. We would have liked to play better cricket and put them under pressure, but we didn’t. Why that happened, we can’t quite put our finger on,” said Petersen.
There are plenty of positives for the Lions, though. They might have been sedated on Sunday night, but there have been some sterling performances from some individuals in the team and, as a unit, they performed well.
Without a star-studded line up or without any egos in the team, the Lions can walk away from the tournament not only richer in cash, but richer in experience and richer in spirit even – if they were a win away from glory.
Sydney Sixers 124-0 (Lumb 82*, Haddin 38) beat Lions 121-10 (Symes 51, Hazlewood 3-22, McCullum 3-24) by 10 wickets DM
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