Australian and South African powerhouses clash
Match factsOctober 26, 2012
Start time 1730 local (1530 GMT)
Big PictureAs expected of a young tournament with potentially different qualifiers every year, we have a semi-final between two sides that have never met each other. However, these two sides - not literally, but the regions they are derived from - are traditional powerhouses in their respective countries.
It is generally said that a healthy New South Wales equals a healthy Australia. The same can be said of Pretoria and surrounds, the region the Titans represent, and South Africa. This is one of the appeals of the Champions League. We can quibble about the formats, but here are two teams, traditionally best or thereabouts in their own domestic tournaments, facing each other for a right to play the final of a lucrative tournament.
Sydney Sixers don't have Shane Watson or David Warner (both New South Welshmen now) available, but Titans have lost out on more stars for various reasons. Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers all come from the region, yet they are either injured or representing other franchises, South African or Indian. Sixers, on the other hand, have retained services of a homegrown pace attack that has even Test fans excited. If only Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were going up against Steyn, Morkel and Marchant de Lange, we could even have looked at this as a bit-sized precursor to the blockbuster Test series next month.
Watch out for…Starc and Cummins have been known outside Australia for some time now, but this was an important tournament for Josh Hazlewood. The rest of the world now knows of another potential baggy green holder. He might not have taken many wickets, but he has bowled his quota in all the four matches he has played, and has gone at just 4.5 per over. Starc, who is leading the charts with 11 wickets, will no doubt acknowledge Hazlewood's contribution to his wickets.
Forget homegrown players, Titans have the services of one who has taken a rather circuitous route. Alfonso Thomas was born in Cape Town, moved to the North-West team in Potchefstroom, then joined Titans, before leaving for Dolphins and then came back to Titans. Despite his one Twenty20 international representing South Africa, he is mostly known to those outside South Africa as a Somerset professional. He will be key if Titans are to exploit what remotely resembles a weakness: Sixers' batting.
Weather and conditionsThe forecast point to a "mostly sunny" day and a "mostly clear" evening in Centurion. If it does rain enough to wash the game out, we still have a reserve day on Saturday. That reduces the teams' challenge to dealing with the slightly tacky bounce at SuperSport Park. That this is Titans' home ground should give them a slight advantage.
Quotes"There won't be any change in game plan. Everybody knows their role and we will continue to play our roles whether Shane's here or not. So, I don't think that is going to be an issue."
Sydney Sixers' Peter Nevill on the absence of Shane Watson
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo