Sydney edge Titans in thrilling 'semi'
Fortunes ebbed and flowed in true Twenty20 style yesterday as the Sydney Sixers survived a final-ball jailbreak to set up a title clash with Lions tomorrow in the Champions League T20 competition at Supersport Park in Centurion, South Africa.
It was a heartbreak for the fans who showed up to cheer for their home side Titans, and for the rest of the country, who would have hoped for an all-South Africa final.
In a tournament which hasn't seen too many high scores, normally associated with this format, a target of 164 was always going to be a challenge. The Sixers were the form team, coming into the semi-finals with an unbeaten record and seemed best equipped to overhaul any challenge thrown at them. They needed all 20 overs to do it.
It was still anybody's game in the final over, with the Sixers needing eight with three wickets in hand. The Titans captain Martin van Jaarsveld gambled by tossing the ball to CJ de Villiers, who had had an ordinary night, leaking 26 off his first two overs.
Ben Rohrer was adventurous enough to paddle-scoop the first, ball but could fetch only a couple. He scooped the second ball straight to mid-off but crucially in those few seconds, Pat Cummins - who blitzed a six the previous over - crossed and shielded the new batsman from facing.
The following ball cost Titans as de Villiers sprayed it too wide of the off stump and was penalised. Cummins heaved the next to deep midwicket, survived a run-out appeal, and picked up two more. He stole a leg bye, exposing Mitchell Starc, who couldn't put away a short ball, but too managed to sneak a leg bye.
There were memories of Johannesburg 2011, when Cummins snatched a Test win for Australia with the bat. He did it again this time when he swung and missed, but it didn't hurt the Sixers as the wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn was way off the mark with his throw and despite a collision with the bowler amid the frenzy, Cummins managed to crawl to the other end to secure a thriller.
Earlier, after compiling two above-par scores in the tournament largely favouring the bowlers, the Titans were always going be tested against the best bowling attack. Their top order, with the exception of Henry Davids, struggled to come to terms with the Sydney Sixers seamers and another low-scoring semi-final loomed. The complexion of the innings changed when David Wiese started clearing the ropes with such regularity that the Sixers sensed they were in for a tough chase. Wiese and Davids ransacked 72 off the last four overs to give the Titans an optimistic chance of meeting the Lions in the final.
The dark clouds that hovered over Centurion threatened another washout, but it didn't deter van Jaarsveld from opting to bat. His decision didn't appear justified after the first ten overs, when the Titans struggled to score at over a run-a-ball and lost three wickets. It was a slower than usual Centurion pitch, perhaps prepared to negate the extra pace of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. The tennis-ball bounce didn't exactly suit the Titans, who played and missed often as the bowlers varied their pace.
The steady Davids was losing partners and the loss of wickets wasn't good for their early momentum. Davids and Farhaan Behardien had added 43 for the fourth wicket, but a sharp catch by Nathan McCullum halted Titans' momentum, albeit briefly. It wasn't the worst thing to happen to the home side as it brought Wiese to the crease a short while later.
After a relatively sedate start, with six off his first ten balls, Wiese began his onslaught by lofting Cummins high over midwicket and in the same over fetched back-to-back fours to take 15 off the over - at the time the most expensive of the innings. It was a sign of things to come as Wiese bludgeoned consecutive sixes over the on-side off Moises Henriques in an over that leaked 23. Cummins was in for another pasting as Wiese and Davids found his extra yard of pace to their liking. Wiese threatened to outscore Davids, but Davids reached his fifty first. Wiese in the process brought up the tournament's fastest fifty - off 25 balls - and helped set up a competitive chase. —ESPN Cricinfo