Sydney Sixers were flawless champions
At the start of the Champions League T20, there was little to suggest Sydney Sixers were different from the other contenders. Their first media engagement was held in the same room as everyone else's and they addressed a small contingent of reporters, speaking with the same bravado and brushing off similar concerns. However, there was something about Brad Haddin that made him a little more serious than other captains, especially when he spoke of the management of the young fast bowlers in Sydney's squad.
"My job is to tell them to go out there and bowl fast," Haddin had said in response to a question on how carefully he had been asked to look after Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Sydney coach Corey Richards also voiced his opinion: "Managing them is important, but from our point of view we are here to win a competition and to get them performing as best as they can over the next couple of weeks."
At the time, those statements did not seem too revealing, except to say Sydney were taking the competition seriously. Over the three weeks, however, talk about the three quicks became almost as frequent as discussions of KP text-gate, only more exciting. The conditions suited Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood and they turned in performances that would have made those who don't appreciate 20-over cricket take notice.
Starc was the leader. With exceptional control for a young bowler, he was able to limit run scoring and prise wickets. Hazlewood backed him up and emerged as perhaps the second best prong of the attack. Cummins, however, may have reached a stage where his reputation precedes him. Despite being the quickest, he was targeted and expensive at times. But Cummins still showed why he is regarded as a special talent, and also held his nerve with the bat.
As the trio turned in performance after performance, Haddin's words echoed in the background. He managed them expertly and was getting as much as he could out of them. With a Test series between South Africa and Australia beginning next week, there was heightened interest in the quicks and their showing left locals in no doubt that Australia's fast-bowling resources are well stocked.
There was more to Sydney, though. A peek behind the bowlers gave a glimpse into the rest. They had a batting line-up that seemed never-ending. Against Titans in the semi-final, Ben Rohrer scored some of the most important runs in the Sydney reply and was later acknowledged by Richards as having done so. Steve O'Keefe was promoted to open the batting in that match and also did not disappoint.
There was the all-round presence of Moises Henriques, who probably should have won Player of the Series. He outshone all the big names in the first match and ended up being one of the most reliable performers in the competition.
The spinners were in the shadow of the quicks through the tournament but they achieved plenty in the final. A clever captaincy move allowed Nathan McCullum and O'Keefe to own a Wanderers pitch as though it was a dustbowl in Sri Lanka, and they did not even need turn to do it.
And then there was Haddin. He missed out on selection for the home Tests against South Africa, but showed why he remains in contention. His leadership, which included playing with an injured thumb, was classy. He batted like he captained and was a major part of all of Sydney's key moments in the tournament.
As a result, Sydney dominated the tournament from start to finish, the latter parts without Shane Watson. They owned all the important statistics. They were the tournament's only unbeaten team and won the final by the highest margin, in wicket terms, in the event's history. Starc was the highest wicket-taker and Michael Lumb overtook four South Africans on the final day to become the leading run-scorer.
The numbers, for once, did tell the whole story. As the final drew closer, opposition camps were describing Sydney as the most "complete" unit. Come to think of it, that word could have been used to explain Sydney's poise in that first press conference: they looked as though they were complete.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent