SHANE Watson delivered the Sydney Sixers a $US500,000 parting gift with a high-class performance which booked the Big Bash League titleholders a berth in the semi-finals of the Champions League yesterday.
The star all-rounder, who leaves South Africa today after being withdrawn from the tournament by Cricket Australia, gave the Sixers a reminder of what they will be missing for the rest of the event, starring with bat and ball in Sydney's five-wicket victory over the previously unbeaten Highveld Lions.
After taking an economical 2-25 with the ball, Watson cracked 47 off 38 balls, as the Sixers, despite some nervous late moments, overhauled Highveld's target of 138 with an over to spare.
The win, the third from as many games, guarantees Sydney a $US500,000 cheque.
The Sixers' massive run rate means they will almost certainly top their group even if they lose their final preliminary-round match, against Mumbai in Durban on Monday.
The Sixers were in control for much of the game, though there were periods in both innings when they had to dig deep.
They conceded 25 runs to Highveld from the two poor opening overs from Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, and also lost three quick wickets.
The Sixers cruised to 60 by the ninth over, then lost Michael Lumb, Dominic Thornely and Watson in the space of 11 balls, all to the left-arm finger spin of Aaron Phangiso.
Victory seemed assured after Brad Haddin clubbed spinner Jean Symes for three consecutive sixes but his departure for 32 off 21 balls left the door ajar for the Lions.
But youngster Steve Smith, showed a cool head to make an unbeaten 25, taking 12 off the penultimate over of the game from Sohail Tanvir to secure the points.
Josh Hazlewood starred again with the ball, taking a miserly 2-18 to follow his record spell two days ago. He has now taken 3-27 in eight overs in his past two games.
The giant quick picked up the key wickets of South African Test opener Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie, a former international batsman, who was the Lions' match-winner in their first match.
Watson and Moises Henriques both played key roles in the middle overs with their changes of pace making it difficult for the Lions to score freely, while Starc was frugal at the death, conceding just six runs from his last two overs. The left-armer finished with figures of 3-19.
Cummins was the most expensive of the Sixers bowlers, conceding 38 from four wicketless overs.
Gulam Bodi played a lone hand for the Lions, hitting 61 off only 44 balls.