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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I chose the final of the Champions League Twenty20 because I felt a match between the home favourites, the Highveld Lions, and the unbeaten Sydney Sixers would be a fitting end to an exciting tournament.
Living in Johannesburg, it was almost mandatory to support the home team. In addition, I felt they needed all the support they could get, coming up against an Australian team that had not lost a match in the tournament. We all know how the Aussies hate to lose!
I thought the bowling unit of the Sixers performed magnificently, but Nathan McCullum was the standout performer. He took Gulam Bodi's wicket in the first over, and by the time he picked up his third wicket (in the 14th over), he had reduced the roar of the Lions and their supporters to a mere whimper.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
In a game that ended up being a bit of a damp squib, I would have liked to see the Lions put a bit of heart into their defence of the paltry 121, to at least give their die-hard fans something to cheer about. I left the game feeling the Lions had not done their best. Dropped catches and wides were the order of the day during the chase.
Face-off I relished
There weren't too many interesting battles to choose from. Seeing McCullum and Thami Tsolekile battle during the first innings was interesting. I felt Tsolekile was looking to increase the run rate and was about to win the battle when McCullum took his wicket.
The stadium was packed with a crowd that was clearly partisan. In the first innings, they cheered every single the Lions got and went into raptures with the odd four or six. The spectators were vocal and involved, slow-clapping to encourage the Lions to get boundaries. When the Lions bowled, the crowd booed the umpire when a wide was called. Halfway through the Sixers innings, people realised that the game was over and started to cheer every great shot. There was a collective sigh of disappointment when Bodi dropped what would have been a wonderful catch, off Aaron Phangiso's bowling. Now and again, the Mexican Wave would go around the stadium. It kept the fans warm and helped make a lot of noise, so that was great.
We were entertained by some lively music and wonderful fireworks for the sixes, and at the end of the game there was a magnificent pyrotechnic display to signify the close of an exciting tournament. Some of the music could definitely be applied to the Lions - "I'm wide awake". The Lions' lethargic running while batting and their mistakes while fielding showed they really needed to be wide awake! Of course "Let me entertain you" was extremely appropriate, because the Sixers entertained us during their batting.
ODI v Twenty20?
I have always preferred the 50-over game. It gives me time to enjoy the finesse and strategy used and to note the technical expertise of the players. In Twenty20 cricket, one gets used to fours and sixes, and when there are not many, like in this game, the crowd gets bored.
The quality of cricket was excellent, in terms of the Sixers performance. They have a focused and dangerous bowling unit and powerful batsmen and excellent fielders. Because of the one-sidedness of the game, though, I would rate the quality of cricket as 6. The Lions did not show what they were capable of. But in spite of my team losing, it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening. The rain stayed away so it was a beautiful evening to be out on the Highveld. I would rate the overall experience as 8, especially as it was a final of a tournament.
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