The Sydney Sixers are almost guaranteed a Champions League semi-finals birth after a tough five wicket win over the Highveld Lions on Thursday.
Some powerful hitting by Sixers captain Brad Haddin (32 from 21 balls) and Shane Watson (47 off 38 balls) helped to hand the Sixers the victory with six balls to spare, but the match was not without its challenges.
After the Sixers won the toss and elected to field, the Lions got off to a rapid start with the bat – scoring 42 runs for no loss off their first five overs, but the Sixers steadily brought the match back under their control to keep the Lions to a very gettable total of 136.
The Sixers showed that they are a team that can deliver under pressure, with quality bowling by Shane Watson (2-25) and Josh Hazlwood (2-18) in the middle overs helping to keep the runs down and the wicket tally ticking.
Mitch Starc (3-19) then turned it on for the Sixers at the end – taking three wickets off the last three overs, including the crucial wicket of Gulam Bodi for 61, to help keep the Lions batsmen in check.
Sixers openers Michael Lumb and Watson got the Sixers off to a steady start with the bat to be 0/45 after six overs.
But it would not be all easy-going for the men in magenta, with the loss of Lumb (22 off 22 balls) and Dom Thornely for a duck off consecutive balls putting Highveld right back in the game.
However Haddin then put the Sixers back on the front foot with three sixes in a row in the fourteenth over to set his team up for their third win out of as many matches so far in the Champions League.
Barring disaster in their last pool match of the competition, the Sixers’ win over the Lions should be enough to secure them a spot in the finals considering their net-run rate is far superior than their opponents.