There was a moment in Sunday's Champions League Twenty20 final that would have rattled any South African cricket fan who was watching closely.

Of course the game as a whole was a traumatic experience to anyone with an emotional investment in the Lions, who produced their worst game of the tournament just as the Sydney Sixers peaked.

But it wasn't so much the Lions score midway through the fifth over of their innings (13 for four) as it was the sight of Mitchell Starc sledging Jean Symes with a special sort of venom after the left-hander had carved a boundary through backward point.

Beyond the large sums of money on offer, the Champions League was - as expected - desperately short on genuine meaning.

Although players were motivated by the moolah that was up for grabs, there was a sense - whether you were at the ground or watching on television - of cricket going through the motions on most days, rattling along in a bid to fulfil its contractual obligations to the TV men so that it could collect its next big pay cheque.

Yet here Starc was, just 22 years of age, having a full go at Symes - unperturbed by the 20-odd thousand Lions fans around him in the Bullring. It was like a throwback to a decade ago, when Adam Gilchrist mocked the South African bowling attack on his way to the fastest Test double-hundred at the time when he aimed for an advertising hoarding that promised a bar of gold to anyone who struck it.

Starc's actions were not quite so imposing but they certainly hinted that Australia's new generation are capable of rediscovering that bullying aura that put them head and shoulders above every other team in the world.

It's an aura that disappeared in 2008 over the course of series defeats to India and South Africa, and it's one which they have struggled to regain because aggression does not tend to hold any credibility for inexperienced players who have been humbled for much of their early international careers.

Starc's experience of the baggy green has been very different to that of, say, Mitchell Johnson, who used to be seen as Australia's great left-arm hope. Although Starc was involved in the Hobart embarrassment last year, when Australia lost at home to New Zealand for the first time since 1985, he has been on the winning side in his other three Tests and is yet to bowl to second slip.

Fourteen wickets in the Champions League is testament to his burgeoning abilities with the ball, but it's the confidence with which he is carrying himself that confirms South Africa will be up against a revitalised Australia over the coming month.

It could well be a series every bit as good as the last one we saw when the Proteas were down under.

Tristan Holme