Home favourites vs tournament's best in CLT20 final
The Champions League T20 may be the ugly step-sister of the cricketing world, with most fans giving it the cold shoulder, but for many of the players involved in today's final in Johannesburg will be the biggest payday of their lives.
With the champions getting a cool US$2.5m, the money on offer will bump players, especially those who aren't part of national teams or aren't globetrotting T20 specialists, up a tax bracket or two. Adding to the occasion will be the sell-out crowd at one of cricket's iconic venues, the Wanderers Stadium, which will make it among the biggest audiences in front of which some of the domestic players will play.
And contesting the final are the two most consistent sides of the tournament. Lions weren't topping anybody's list of favourites when the tournament began, but they have exceeded expectations through a combination of teamwork and temperament, keeping their head when things start to get tight.
They have plenty going for them. The Wanderers is their home ground, and no one knows the conditions there better than Lions. The diversity in their batting - Twenty20 batting doesn't get too much more of a contrast than the leg-side biffing of Ghulam Bodi and the surgical precision of Neil McKenzie - has been married to consistency through the tournament.
And the bowling has four match-winners: their two imports Dirk Nannes and Sohail Tanvir, their best bowler in the domestic tournament, Chris Morris, and one of the bowlers of the CLT20, Aaron Phangiso.
Their one reverse in this tournament came against their opponents in the final, Sydney Sixers. When the Big Bash League was launched a year ago, Sydney Sixers were the butt of jokes for their flamboyantly pink outfits, a colour which they started to refer to as 'mangenta'. A year on, they have earned the respect of Twenty20 fans after winning the inaugural BBL, and are yet to drop a game in the CLT20.
They came into the tournament as one of the leading contenders and have so far lived up to the tag, despite losing the services of Dwayne Bravo and Brett Lee to IPL teams, and that of possibly the most valuable player currently in T20 cricket, Shane Watson, midway through the tournament.
They could also be without their captain, Brad Haddin, for the final, as he picked up a thumb injury - though he was fit enough to bat on Friday.