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Sixers sink Titans' hopes

Steve O’Keefe was the man-of-the-match.

CENTURION — Fortunes ebbed and flowed in true Twenty20 style in Centurion today, as Sydney Sixers scripted a final-ball jailbreak to set up a title clash with Lions on Sunday.

It was a heartbreak for the home fans, who showed up to cheer for Titans, and for the rest of the country, who would have hoped for an all-South Africa final.

In a tournament that hasn’t seen too many of the high scores normally associated with this format, a target of 164 was always going to be a challenge. Sixers were the form team, coming into the semis unbeaten, and seemed best equipped in all departments to overhaul any challenge thrown at them.

It was still anybody’s game in the final over, with Sixers needing eight with three wickets in hand. Titans captain Martin van Jaarsveld gambled by tossing the ball to CJ de Villiers, who had had an ordinary night leaking 26 off his first two overs.

Ben Rohrer was adventurous enough to paddle-scoop the first ball but could fetch only a couple. He scooped the second ball straight to mid-off but crucially in those few seconds, Pat Cummins — who blitzed a six the previous over – crossed and shielded the new batsman from facing.

The following ball cost Titans as de Villiers sprayed it too wide of the off stump and was penalised. Cummins heaved the next to deep midwicket, survived a run-out appeal and picked up two more. He stole a leg bye, exposed Mitchell Starc who couldn’t put away a short ball but also managed to sneak a leg bye.

There were memories of Johannesburg 2011, when Cummins snatched a Test win for Australia with the bat. He did it again this time when he swung and missed, but it didn’t hurt Sixers as the wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn was way off the mark with his throw and, despite a collision with the bowler amid the frenzy, Cummins managed to crawl to the other end to secure a thriller.

A nail-biter seemed unlikely after the electric start provided by the openers Michael Lumb and Steve O’Keefe, who was in his makeshift role due to Shane Watson’s departure to Australia. The pair added 54 in just under five overs with clean hits, each boundary met by a hush from the crowd. The first eight overs contained at least one boundary.

The ninth was the start of Titans’ comeback, via their spinners. Eden Links clean bowled O’Keefe for 32 and the following over by Roelof van der Merwe produced two wickets, including a run-out. It was the first of two communication breakdowns in Sixers’ innings – Steve Smith and Nic Maddinson found themselves stranded on two separate occasions and Sixers had slipped from 85 for 1 after eight overs to 115 for 5 after 13.

Van der Merwe came back well after being caned in his opening over but a couple of meaty blows by Moises Henriques narrowed the equation. The match see-sawed again when Henriques and Nathan McCullum fell off consecutive balls, and it came down to Cummins to secure the highest-successful chase in this edition of the tournament.

That the match even had a competitive ring to it though was thanks to contrasting half-centuries by two Titans batsmen with similar sounding names. Henry Davids batted through the innings with 59 off 44 balls while David Wiese made the most of his relatively short stint with an unbeaten 61 off 28 balls.

Titans were at an underwhelming 91 for 5 after 16 overs, desperate for a push. Wiese began his onslaught by lofting Cummins high over midwicket and in the same over fetched back-to-back fours to take 15 off the over. It was a sign of things to come as Wiese bludgeoned consecutive sixes over the on- side off Henriques in an over that leaked 23.

They ransacked 72 off the last four overs and Wiese brought up the tournament’s fastest fifty — off 25 balls — to give Sixers something to think about. In the end it was fitting that Sixers, the most dominant side in the competition, made the final. (Cricinfo)

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