Champions League T20 2012 October 11, 2012

Watson-powered Sixers a team to beat

The restructuring of Australia's domestic Twenty20 competition last year resulted in Sydney and Melbourne each providing two sides for the eight-team Big Bash League. The Sydney Sixers, based at the SCG, began the tournament looking like the modest cross-town rivals of the Sydney Thunder, who were headquartered at the much bigger Olympic Stadium and had the most daunting opening combination imaginable: Chris Gayle and David Warner (although Warner ended up playing only one game). The Sixers, by comparison, appeared much less glitzy. Their overseas signings were solid T20 players - Michael Lumb, Nathan McCullum and Dwayne Bravo - who could not compete with Gayle and Warner for marketing value. And although Shane Watson was on the books the Sixers knew his international commitments would limit him, and as it turned out injury prevented him playing at all.

But the Sixers proved themselves a fine side, led for the most part by Steven Smith in the absence of the nominal captain Brad Haddin. Mitchell Starc was their leader with the ball, collecting 13 wickets at 13.53 and providing a glimpse of what he would give Australia at the World T20 later in the year. They lured the legspinner Stuart MacGill out of retirement and his output was surprisingly impressive for a man who was always considered a long-form specialist. Brett Lee was typically strong. And a range of less well-known New South Wales players filled the list and provided contributions.

Their CLT20 squad is an interesting one. MacGill won't be there, having not signed another contract for this season. Lee will line up against them, playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders. They are also without Bravo. But the Sixers can claim two massive inclusions: Watson and Pat Cummins, both of whom were part of their squad for the BBL but did not play a match due to injuries. Adding to the intrigue, Cummins has already signed on to join the Perth Scorchers for this season's BBL, so he will make his Sixers debut in South Africa knowing that he might never play a game for them in the BBL. Haddin will lead a solid squad that should not be underestimated - 10 of their 15 men have played international cricket - and the presence of Watson and Starc alone make them serious contenders for the title.

How they qualified

The Sixers won five of their seven qualifying matches in the BBL and then scored a narrow victory over the Hobart Hurricanes in the semi-final at Bellerive Oval. They had to win away from home again in the final at the WACA and did just that, beating the Perth Scorchers, thanks largely to Moises Henriques with the bat and early strikes from Lee with the ball.

Key player

Who else but Shane Watson? The Sixers will be the envy of every other team in the competition due to the presence of the World T20 Player of the Tournament. As Watson showed in Sri Lanka, he is in wonderful form with both bat and ball and he has the potential to carry the Sixers through to the deciding stages on his own.

Surprise package

The expansion to eight BBL teams from the usual six state sides meant recruiters had to look a little bit harder for players to top up their lists, and Ian Moran was the beneficiary of that. A fast-bowling allrounder who briefly played for New South Wales in the Big Bash six years earlier, Moran played three games for the Sixers, including the final, and performed solidly enough to earn a place at the CLT20. Moran, 33, is not a full-time cricketer and has had to take leave without pay from his day job as a physical education teacher at Sydney's prestigious Trinity Grammar School to join the Sixers in South Africa.


The Sixers have most bases covered, from pace to spin to quality batting. If anything, they might have wanted a little more depth in the batting - Watson, Haddin, Lumb and Smith will need to do much of the scoring - but it is a minor quibble.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here