Cape Town – Albeit that they will be anything but walkovers,
only the Sydney Sixers now stand in the way of an attractive, high-stakes
Champions League Twenty20 final between old Highveld foes the Lions and Titans
at the Wanderers on Sunday evening (17:30).
The Lions, not exactly brimful of global superstars as the
tournament got under way, have significantly surpassed expectation by reaching
the showpiece, courtesy of their 22-run semi-final victory over the formidably
cosmopolitan Delhi Daredevils in the first semi-final at Kingsmead on Thursday.
But the Titans have arguably punched above their weight too,
considering that they have been stripped of such household names as the Morkel
brothers and Faf du Plessis (to their IPL franchises) and also been operating
without AB de Villiers, who worryingly continues to be plagued by back problems
on the eve of the Test tour of Australia.
Their motivation to beat the hitherto unbeaten Sixers at
Centurion in the second semi later on Friday will only have increased with the
news that their neighbours from across the Hennops River have already landed a
berth in the final.
Home advantage on Friday will be a tidy ally, but the Titans
will also be only too aware that the Australians boast a frisky young pace
attack – Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have been particularly impressive
and Pat Cummins is re-approaching his best form – and have comfortably seen off
all comers thus far.
The Sixers have beaten, since the start of the event,
Chennai Super Kings by 14 runs, Yorkshire by eight wickets, the Lions by five
wickets (a Newlands result that stands them in good stead mentally if they do
encounter these opponents again at the Bullring on Sunday) and Mumbai Indians
by 12 runs.
If the Titans do beat them, however, they will set up a
repeat of the T20 domestic final at the end of last summer, when the Lions were
comfortably downed by 45 runs.
On that occasion the hosts were set a demanding 188 to
triumph, and laboured to 142 all out as surprise package Faf du Plessis, the
part-time leg-spinner, grabbed four for 24 to ruin their aspirations.
Of course if the same sides do lock horns on Sunday, it will
be for an altogether more lucrative booty than offered up in the domestic T20
arena: the winning side in the CLT20 bags US$2.5-million.
Considering the current exchange rate to the embattled rand
of around 8.70, that is especially appealing to non-internationals like Henry
Davids, CJ de Villiers and Ethy Mbhalati of the Titans and Lions counterparts
like Jean Symes and Aaron Phangiso (though the last-named player must be
desperately close to Proteas T20 caps now after a wonderful tournament).
The final is live on SS2 and SHD on Sunday.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing