Form-teams Sixers and Lions to do battle
Match factsOctober 18, 2012
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)
Big PictureThere is a striking similarity in the Champions League campaigns of the Sydney Sixers and the Highveld Lions. They have won their two opening matches - counting Chennai Super Kings among their victims - their batsmen have contributed right across the order and their pace attacks have thrived on the fast, bouncy surfaces at the Wanderers and in Cape Town. They remain in Cape Town for this clash, and the winners will be within touching distance of the semi-finals.
In Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Shane Watson and Josh Hazlewood, the Sixers have a better pace battery than most international sides can claim, and they will be riding high after restricting Yorkshire to 96 for 9 only two days previously at the same venue. On that occasion, the pace and bounce generated by the Sixers' quicks on a helpful surface not only proved penetrative, but when that aggression was allied with tight lines, the bowling was difficult to score off as well.
If the Sixers can take early wickets, they will be able to test a Lions middle order that hasn't yet been called upon for big runs in this tournament. But given the Lions top four boasts the experience of Alviro Peterson, Gulam Bodi and Neil McKenzie, that will not be an easy task. How the young Sixers pacemen go against the established Lions top order might go a long way in determining the outcome.
The Lions attack may not have as many big names, but they have restricted oppositions to two chaseable totals so far. Different bowlers have starred in each game and stepped up to break burgeoning partnerships, and with the batting also following a similar pattern, the team bears the hallmarks of a side who are achieving beyond what their individual records suggest.
Watch out for...Apart from having perhaps the best profile picture ever, Aaron Phangiso has provided economy to the Lions attack while some of the seamers have been going for runs. The pitches have not been conducive to turn, but Phangiso has been disciplined and varied enough his pace to strike a good balance between attack and defence on the early-season pitches. He has 3 wickets for 34 from eight overs so far.
Beyond franchise cricket, Brad Haddin's future is being decided by the Australian selectors, as they ponder whether to bring in Haddin or retain Matthew Wade in the Test team. Haddin was belligerent when he came out to bat in what was a straightforward chase against Yorkshire - perhaps in an attempt to improve the Sixers' net run rate, but surely also, to prove his worth to the Australian cause. If the Sixers make it to the Champions League final, Haddin will not have time to play a Sheffield Shield match before the South Africa tour of Australia begins. The best he can do to woo the selectors, if that happens, is to score heavily in the Twenty20 tournament he is playing.
Quotes"In the past people saw the Lions as a team that fights from behind. This time we were out to change that perception. We wanted to lead and that's exactly what we're doing."
Lions' middle-order batsman Jean Symes
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka