Sydney Sixers step it up in South Africa
As is the case on most given days in the calendar year, there is a cricket tournament going on right now.
It even involves some Aussie teams – the fledgling Big Bash League franchises Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers. Not that anyone in Australia is really talking about it.
I see that the time zones are an issue for your casual viewership, but I think any Aussies on Central European time would agree, the tournament’s been going pretty well for our boys. The Sixers especially.
Being a Sydneysider and SCG member until all too recently, I suppose it was my destiny to be a Sixers fan. Some would say I’m a glory supporter, who only jumped on the bandwagon after I found out they won the inaugural Big Bash League three days after the game.
That may not be quite true though, as I do spend an inordinate, somewhat unhealthy, amount of time watching cricket.
This Champions League in South Africa has certainly filled the gap between the intoxicating World Twenty20 and the mouthwatering Tests between our boys and the Proteas in November quite nicely.
The Sixers are already into the finals, having chased down the Lions’ total of 137 with an over and five wickets to spare earlier today.
They’ve got a good shot at the title too. One of the pre-tournament favourites, IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders, are already out, having fallen victim to a washout against the Scorchers yesterday.
You can bet the Sixers would love to add Brett Lee (a Knight Rider) to their already formidable pace attack of Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins, but for whatever reason, Aussies who are contracted in the IPL have to play for their adopted Indian team.
Jacques Kallis and Mitchell Johnson are others who fell victim to these baffling eligibility rules.
But aside from these various head-scratchings about who should play for whom under which circumstances, the Champions League has been good fun to watch.
Shane Watson has been enjoying his last opportunities to slog before he has to go home and prepare for the relative drudgery of Test cricket. He just piled on another 47 runs and two wickets to add to his impressive stats of late.
More importantly for Aussie cricket fans, his aura of late is simply awesome. Always a physical colossus, with biceps and rhomboids oft-bulging through his creams, he has been the go-to bowler and batsman for both of his captains in the T20 format.
He looks like he knows he is going to take wickets every time he takes up the cherry, new or old.
And his batting betrays a similar level of assurance. Not too much movement around the crease, just a still head and a confident swing of the bat, sending the ball a hundred metres downfield. This can only bode well for his return to the Test arena.
It is also nice to see Brad Haddin back and playing, after what must have been a torturous 12 months. He looked to be hitting the ball quite sweetly in his knock of 32 today. This innings really steadied the Sixers’ ship after three quick wickets.
He was his usual avian self behind the stumps as well, chirping away at batsmen and giving plenty of encouragement to his bowlers and fielders. His rotation of the young Sydney quicks has been a highlight in the two games I have watched.
Whether he will see any action in Aussie colours this summer remains to be seen. While I doubt it, he is more than a handy bench player.
Mitchell Starc looks to be improving as well. Initially, I thought his stock ball may have been slightly too full for international cricket, but he picked up another man of the match award today and he seems to just keep taking wickets.
The fact that he can bend them back to right-handers regularly is a seriously important string in his bow. Being able to do this at pace sets him apart from other left-handed Aussie quicks at the moment.
It all looks rather rosy for the Sixers right now, and if they win the trophy then maybe people will realise that Aussies actually can play T20.
Whether or not this recent success in the shorter format will translate to results against the new head honchos of the Test scene, South Africa… well, that’s a real humdinger.