The Sydney Sixers sealed the title in the fourth edition of the Champions League T20 in a flurry of hefty blows from openers Michael Lumb and Brad Haddin at the Wanderers, but it was the consistent excellence of their pace attack that had vanquished all opposition before that.
Left-armer Mitchell Starc was the leading wicket-taker in the competition, with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Moises Henriques all in the top-10 as well. Hazlewood was also the most economical of the bowlers who delivered at least 10 overs in the tournament.
The Highveld Lions were the beaten team in the final, but still emerged with much credit as the Australians were the only side to beat them during the competition.
The Titans were the other South African representatives and they also did not let the country down as they reached the semi-finals, where they were beaten by two wickets by the Sixers in a last-ball thriller.
Four venues – SuperSport Park, the Wanderers, Newlands and Kingsmead – were used as South Africa hosted the tournament for the second time, but rain unfortunately also made an unwanted appearance at the start of a wet summer as four games were washed out.
Both the Lions and Titans were away to fast starts as they won their opening two matches.
Jacques Rudolph and CJ de Villiers blew away the Perth Scorchers in Centurion, while the Lions once again claimed the scalp of the Mumbai Indians at the Wanderers on the opening weekend of action, thanks to the batting of Neil McKenzie and Quinton de Kock, and the superb bowling of Dirk Nannes and Aaron Phangiso.
It soon became obvious that Phangiso was able to outwit international-class batsmen as he continued to excel in victories over the Chennai Super Kings and Yorkshire, and the semi-final against the Delhi Daredevils. The left-arm spinner finished the tournament with 10 wickets and an economy rate of just 5.36.
The Titans brushed aside the challenge of the Auckland Aces in their second match, but were then blown off course by a heavy defeat at the hands of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Their final pool game, against the Daredevils, was washed out and they were then devastated to lose their semi-final off the last ball of the match.
The final was a one-sided affair as the Sixers, who best understood the value of a powerful, adaptable bowling attack, surprised the Lions by starting with spin.
Semi-final 1: Highveld Lions v Delhi Daredevils
Neil McKenzie, who was dropped twice off Morne Morkel, ensured that the Lions had a defendable score as he spearheaded a late charge of 54 runs off the last five overs. Morris was then superb on a Kingsmead pitch that provided him with pace and bounce.
Semi-final 2: Titans v Sydney Sixers
The Sixers needed eight runs off the final over and Pat Cummins scrambled a leg-bye off the last delivery. Titans spinners Roelof van der Merwe and Eden Links had earlier bowled them back into the match after a roaring start by the Australians.
Cummins had earlier suffered terribly at the hands of David Wiese, who notched the fastest half-century of the tournament, off just 25 balls, while Henry Davids played an anchor role brilliantly.
Final: Highveld Lions v Sydney Sixers
The Highveld Lions were also-rans in a one-sided final, never recovering from a horror start after the Sixers had surprised them by opening the bowling with spinners. Openers Bodi and Petersen fell to offie McCullum and left-armer O’Keefe respectively, and with Hazlewood also chipping in with the key wickets of De Kock and McKenzie in the third over, the Lions had crashed to nine for four.
Symes, with the help of Tsolekile and Pretorius in the lower-order, gave them something to bowl at, but the Lions were also poor in the field, both Lumb, who also finished as the tournament’s leading run-scorer, and Haddin being dropped in the seventh and eighth overs.