Highveld Lions left at Sixers and sevens
DESPITE Aaron Phangiso's career-best bowling performance and bullish batting by Gulam Bodi, the Highveld Lions crashed to their first defeat of the Champions League T20 at Newlands in Cape Town yesterday.
The Lions, who surprised the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings in their first two matches, were beaten by five wickets with an over to spare by the Sydney Sixers.
The result was predictable after the Gauteng-based side, which was put in to bat on a pitch that promised plenty of runs, could score only 137/9.
Bodi's 61, his second half-century of the tournament and a knock that made him the event's second-highest run-scorer after the Titans' Jacques Rudolph, was the biggest single chunk of an innings in which the next best effort was Jean Symes' 23.
Sydney were run close in their reply by a Lions' attack that wasn't keen to go quietly. But they had too few runs to play with, and the Australians were able to cruise to 141/5 without too much fuss.
Left-arm spinner Phangiso took his tally of wickets for the tournament to nine with his haul of 3/14, and his economy rate of four per over for the competition makes him the most miserly of all bowlers who have played more than one match.
But anything the Lions could do, the Sixers could do better.
Whereas Phangiso was the only Lions bowler to take more than one wicket, for the Sixers Mitchell Starc's 3/19 was backed up by Josh Hazlewood's 2/19 and Shane Watson's 2/25.
Similarly, the 32 that Bodi and Quinton de Kock shared for the second wicket was the Lions' only stand over 30.
Openers Michael Lumb and Watson put on 60 for the Sydneysiders before Brad Haddin and Steve Smith shared 42 for the fourth wicket.
A Sydney collapse was always going to be the Lions' best hope of winning, and hopes rose when Phangiso bowled Lumb for 22 and had Dominic Thornely stumped off a wide with his next delivery.
Haddin, who scored 32, survived the hat-trick ball but in Phangiso's next over Watson, whose 47 was the Sixers' top score, skied a sweep to Thami Tsolekile.
That reduced Sydney to 74/3 in the 11th over, and if the Lions had scored 30 more runs they would have had an even chance at victory.
The Lions' last group match is against Yorkshire at the Wanderers tomorrow.
RUINED BY RAIN
Yorkshire's hopes of extending their Champions League Twenty20 adventure beyond the group stage took a hit on Thursday as their clash with the Mumbai Indians at Newlands was washed out.
The biggest winners from that piece of news were the Lions, who had lost to the Sydney Sixers on the same ground earlier in the day but now have an excellent chance of progressing along with the Australian outfit, who have progressed to the semi-finals.
Yorkshire and Mumbai now have two points from two games, which moves them above Chennai (zero points after two games) but leaves them well short of Sydney (12) and the Lions (eight).
The Lions will have the opportunity to wrap up the second semi-final spot from Group B on Saturday, when they face Yorkshire at the Wanderers.
The rain was a big blow for Mumbai, who had amassed 156 for six in 17.5 overs and looked on course for a resounding victory given that Newlands is yet to see a score of more than 160.
Kieron Pollard was in the process of finishing the innings with aplomb as well, having clubbed five boundaries in the last three overs to reach an unbeaten 37 from 20 deliveries.
Fellow West Indian Dwayne Smith had given the innings a jolt at the start when he thumped 14 off the first over, bowled by spinner Joe Root, before making 37 from 26 balls.
The Champions League action continues on Friday evening when the Delhi Daredevils, who have won their only game so far, face off against the Auckland Aces in Durban.