The discovery of Phangiso, and Tendulkar's flop show
Twenty20 is perceived to be a batsman's game and it is for the most part. It wasn't during the Champions League in South Africa. In the early summer, the seamers got the ball to nip around and carry, and sometimes the tennis-ball bounce made batting harder. The bowlers forced batting sides to revise their estimations of what a competitive score was. Including the qualifiers, the average first-innings score in completed matches was roughly 146 - well below the corresponding figure for the IPL. A team was dismissed for less than 100 once and, in the final, Lions looked like capitulating for much less at 9 for 4. There were only three scores in excess of 180, the highest being Kolkata Knight Riders' 188 for 5 against Titans.
Phangiso, the revelation
Following the discovery of Sunil Narine in the 2011 Champions League, this edition has all but launched another spinner, the Lions left-armer Aaron Phangiso, a new face to the majority of his opponents. With ten wickets from six games, Phangiso finished joint second with Azhar Mahmood, but it was his miserly economy rate of 5.36 that stood out. He conceded more than five runs an over only twice in a completed spell and also dismissed Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Watson. His spin may lack the element of 'mystery' that Narine possesses, but he keeps batsmen guessing with the occasional pause before delivery. Bigger things are in store for Phangiso if the scouts were paying attention and though he's on the wrong side of 20 - he's 28 - it may not be too late for the selectors to include him in their Twenty20 plans at least.
Lions defy expectations
Two editions of the Champions League have been held in South Africa and on both occasions, a local side made the final (Warriors in 2010). While that wasn't surprising, the fact Lions made it all the way was one of the stories of the tournament. They had underachieved in finals in the recent past, including in the domestic T20 competition. The sell-out crowd at the Wanderers on Sunday was indicative of their fans' loyalty and craving to witness them end their jinx. Though it wasn't to be, there were plenty of positives. A side that lacked star power at the top rallied around the experienced Neil McKenzie to knock out two IPL teams - Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians. They impressed with their temperament while chasing, and their middle order responded under pressure. Besides Phangiso, the likes of Gulam Bodi, Quinton de Kock and Jean Symes made big impressions.
Brad Haddin, the Sydney Sixers captain, said his side had been preparing for the finals for over two weeks. The Big Bash League winners came in to the tournament with the strongest fast bowling attack, containing the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. The future of Australia's bowling was on show. The Sixers proved they could remain unbeaten even in Shane Watson's absence, and their overseas picks, Michael Lumb and Nathan McCullum, made telling contributions in the final. Haddin also had utility players at his disposal, and he used the left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe with the new ball. The 'pink' jokes can be put to rest.
Sixteen, 7, 2, and 22 are not scores you would associate with Sachin Tendulkar. His fortunes mirrored that of Mumbai Indians, who went home winless. Another problem with Tendulkar's performance was his strike-rate - less than 100 in all innings. His recent tendency to get bowled was repeated in two innings; even the unheralded Phangiso hit his stumps. It's difficult to pinpoint the reasons for Tendulkar's failure. He insists that murmurs over his 'waning' reflexes do not affect him. With the England Tests coming up, this wasn't the ideal preparation.
The IPL flop
It was a snub for the organisers that only one out of four IPL teams made the semi-finals. The IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders made the earliest exit, and Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians hoped in vain for a backdoor entry. Despite having foreign players who represented their IPL sides instead of their 'home' teams, they failed to adapt to the conditions. They should have given themselves more time to acclimatise after a four-month break, like Auckland Aces did. For the sake of the tournament and its overwhelming Indian presence, the organisers will want it back in India next season.
There were five washouts, two of which were without a ball bowled. None of the four venues were spared by the rain. The weather affected the chances of certain teams going through to the semis. Delhi Daredevils had the worst of it, with two complete washouts. The extended idle time was of no help to Virender Sehwag, desperate for form and match time ahead of the Indian home season, albeit in a different format. This should be another lesson for the organisers when it comes to scheduling.
England's pull out and the credibility issue
The biggest criticism levelled at the tournament is that it does not have a level-playing field. The introduction of the qualifying round from 2011 only highlighted the gulf between the stakeholders and the rest of the teams. Australia and South Africa are allowed two teams each in the main draw, while India have four. The tournament also took a hit when England said its counties wouldn't play further seasons because of a clash with its domestic schedule. That the format is still a work in progress after four editions doesn't inspire confidence.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo