It will be a battle between Titans’ batsmen and Sydney Sixers’ bowlers in the second Champions League T20 semi-final in Centurion
Ask any of the members of the Sydney Sixers squad who the in-form cricketer in the shortest format of the game is and their answer will be the same: Shane Watson.
Or like Peter Nevill, they will go one step further. Nevill labelled Watson “arguably the best player in the world” and, although Watson deferred to Chris Gayle on that score, many would agree.
Watson’s all-round abilities have always been praised but his sensational World T20, in which he was named Man of the Series, heightened expectation off him at the Champions League. He did not disappoint. Watson scored 46 off 30 balls in Sydney’s 14-run win over Chennai Super Kings in their first match, took 2 for 27 in their demolition of Yorkshire and then delivered in both departments with 47 off 38 balls and two wickets against fellow semi-finalists, Lions.
He was not the only contributor though. Moises Henriques has outshone some of the bigger names and the young bowling attack – Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood in particular – has impressed. Even before the tournament started Brad Haddin maintained that to focus on individuals would be a mistake and he seems to have woven a strong team culture through the camp.
It was needed too, because just as Watson turned in a prime all-round performance, he was recalled. Cricket Australia instructed him to return home early to prepare for the upcoming Test series against South Africa. What would Sydney be without Watto, we wondered?
Just as good, was the answer.
Despite putting on what looked like a below-par total against Mumbai Indians, Sydney kept their opposition line-up in check and were the only team to get out of the group stage without a single defeat. They have been called one of the “most complete” line-ups by many of the teams who are no longer in the tournament, including Perth, Auckland and Yorkshire.
To have been able to remain that way, even without Watson, is something that Nevill said “gives the group a lot of confidence”. As a unit, Sydney have tried to motivate each other as much as possible and they see that as one of their biggest strengths. “There’s cohesion among the group. Everyone gets on very well and enjoys each others’ company off the field, and I think that makes a big difference,” Nevill said.
They will have to rely on strength in numbers against Titans because, according to Nevill, a hostile Centurion crowd may prove as tough as the opposition itself. “That will probably be the biggest hurdle of all,” he said. “We saw it in the opening game and we know what to expect.”
He warned Titans that Sydney have a key weapon of their own. Henquries is what Nevill calls the “danger man” and someone who can step into Watson’s shoes, particularly in the allrounder mould. “His form so far, in the domestic season and in this competition, has been outstanding,” he said. “He has done really well and we expect more of the same.”