Captain Klinger leads South Australia to facile win
In what turned out to be a battle of captains - both men started their careers for other teams - Michael Klinger's 48-ball 78 for South Australia Redbacks outweighed Alviro Petersen's 35-ball 56 for the Lions. Klinger's effort not only lasted longer than his counterpart's, he could draw on more support from the other end too: Callum Ferguson, the new vice-captain, raised 97 in 9.3 overs with him after a slow start, a South Australian third-wicket record.
The key moments in the big chase, which seemed on for more than half the innings, came in the 11th and 13th overs. With 86 required off 58 and seven wickets in hand, Neil McKenzie called for a second only to see Gary Putland - at sweeper-cover - fire in a throw right on top of the stumps. So alert were South Australia that Graham Manou, the keeper who has been relieved of captaincy duties, had his keeping glove off, completed the run-out, and then got the non-striker out too. Just in case.
Two overs later, Daniel Christian, who had got Vaughn van Jaarsveld in his first over, produced the final game-breaker with an accurate inswinger that Petersen missed and was hit in front. Seventy-one off 44 was always going to be too much for the lower order, especially with Shaun Tait's pace lurking.
For a major part of the first innings, though, it didn't seem Lions would be chasing that much. South Australia managed just 19 runs in the first five overs, and it seemed they would struggle without the big-hitting services of Kieron Pollard and Shahid Afridi. Another "outsider", though, their new captain and Victorian Klinger, made up for it, almost single-handedly.
Klinger moved to South Australia two seasons ago and played no part in their qualification for the Champions League, but if there were question marks over his walking into the new-look side as captain, they exist no more after his first half-century in the format.
Klinger saw opener Daniel Harris perish after trying to play everything off the front foot, and Manou mis-hit a scoop to short third man. Out of the 52 that had been scored in 8.2 overs until then, Klinger had 27 off 16. Those included a delightful straight six off Zander de Bruyn to give score some respectability in the Powerplay overs.
After Manou's dismissal, Klinger took matters into his own hands, lofting offspinner Werner Coetsee over cow corner for six and hitting Richard Cameron for back-to-back boundaries, moving to 48 out of South Australia's 78 in the 12th over. The bowlers to hit were intelligently picked: all three were the second string, and Coetsee got a game only because Shane Burger, then man who removed Sachin Tendulkar and Pollard in the first match, was injured.
Ferguson, coming out of a knee reconstruction, started improvising by backing away and playing powerful shots through the off side. de Bruyn was at the receiving end again, going for three consecutive boundaries in the 16th over: through the covers once and into the leg side twice, a result of Ferguson's moving about in the crease. Three more fours came in Ethan O'Reilly's next: two yorkers squeezed through the off side and a an inside-out forehand.
Klinger let Ferguson take charge for a bit, but opened a second round of fire in the 18th over, hitting two sixes over the short leg-side boundary. The Lions' good fielding came to rescue: de Bruyn produced a good throw to run Ferguson out and Alviro Petersen a stunning catch at long-on to deny Klinger a sixth six.
Petersen, who took over captaincy from Thami Tsolekile, the man who led the Lions to their domestic T20 final, continued resisting with the bat, finding a way to score off bowlers other than Tait, keeping Lions in touch with the rate, even ahead of it by the halfway mark. Wickets kept falling at the other end, though, and his dismissal signalled the end of the contest.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo