Adelaide Strikers vs Sydney Thunder
Adelaide Strikers 163-6 (Carey 44, Head 36, Nair 36-3, McClenaghan 37-2) def Sydney Thunder 110 (Patterson 48, Laughlin 26-4, Siddle 6-2, Rashid 22-2) by 53 runs at Adelaide Oval
It was one of the best balls of the Big Bash’s early stages that kick-started the collapse. Rashid Khan had already removed Ryan Gibson with the first ball of his third over, catching the outside edge with an excellent leg-break and allowing Alex Carey to take a good catch. The Sydney Thunder were 3/69, and still had a chance of running down the Adelaide Strikers’ below par total of 163. Then Rashid stepped up again. His third ball was one of his googlies, and slid past Ben Rohrer’s helpless outside edge to clip the top of off stump. At 93 kph, it was too much for Rohrer, who didn’t pick it as the Afghan prodigy decisively swung momentum the way of the Strikers. The Thunder never recovered.
The Strikers had started well against the Thunder’s quick bowlers, with Carey and new captain Travis Head playing some excellent shots after Jake Weatherald was dismissed early. Carey was in particularly fluent form, driving with perfect timing and taking the lead as the Strikers finished the PowerPlay with a commanding 1/54. The boundaries kept flowing as the spinners came on, with Carey hitting Arjun Nair for a six over mid-wicket and lofting Ahmed over cover in the next over. When Head followed with another slog sweep for six off Nair, the Strikers looked set for a big total. It was not to be.
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Not happy: Mitchell McClenaghan’s emotions boiled over after colliding with Jonathan Wells and dropping a catch.
Neither man would hit another boundary, as Nair bagged Head three balls later. The Strikers captain was ready for a sweep shot, and was caught out by the short, wide off-break that followed, getting a bottom edge which was well taken by Jos Buttler. Carey was undone by the pressure a few overs later, attempting a reverse sweep off Nair and never looking in control of the shot. Colin Ingram never got going and departed the ball after hitting Nair over mid-wicket for his first boundary, and the new pair of Jonathan Wells and Jake Lehmann couldn’t find any momentum, or the fence. Mitchell McClenaghan’s bowling at the end was erratic and frustrated, with one particularly memorable ball landing wide of the cut strip and being called a no-ball for a waist high full toss. He also caused a long delay as Wells was investigated for obstructing the field, and looked flustered and off his game. The Strikers could not capitalise, and their total of 6/163 looked well below par on a good pitch.
It looked even worse when Jos Buttler hit the first two balls of the innings to the boundary, although the Strikers had steadied somewhat when Peter Siddle entered the attack in the third over. Siddle used the nagging accuracy which made him such an effective Test bowler to great effect, tying down Kurtis Patterson and collecting the big wicket of Buttler as Billy Stanlake took a catch backpedalling at fine-leg. Some effective bowling limited the Thunder to 1/35 by the end of the PowerPlay, even with Ben Laughlin giving away some free boundaries when introduced into the attack. Rashid entered directly afterwards, and saw two of his first three balls cut to the boundary. He didn’t concede another.
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Breakthrough: Peter Siddle takes a nice catch to remove Kurtis Patterson for 48.
The big wicket fell when Shane Watson, the hero of the Thunder’s first up win, holed out, attempting to hit Head out of the attack. The theory of taking on the part-timer was sound, but in practice it backfired as the Strikers captain dismissed his opposite number with his first ball. Patterson managed to hit some nice shots against Head and moved into the forties while playing with more fluency than he had done in the season opener. Then Rashid took his two wickets in three balls, and the collapse had begun. Patterson was still at large, but when he fell brashly advancing down the wicket against Stanlake the Thunder’s bandwagon, which had been starting to slip, fell off a cliff. Aiden Blizzard used his fluoro green bat to hit his second ball in the air. Chris Green, with a similarly coloured blade, couldn’t even hit the one ball he faced, Ben Laughlin picking up a second wicket in three balls as Green was out leg before. McClenaghan got a wide one first up, and somehow bunted it into the air for Head to take his second catch of the over. The hat-trick ball was negotiated by Nair, who had observed the carnage from the other end, but the game was over.
Neither Fawad Ahmed nor Andrew Fekete could do more than look shaky and eventually get out as the game meandered to its inevitable conclusion. Nair continued to fight, hitting a nice six and displaying excellent temperament and technique against the excellent and diverse bowling attack, but the Thunder were way too far gone for his battling 23 not out to matter. The Strikers exposed the fragility of the Thunder’s batting line-up with ruthless efficiency, picking up a big first-up win and looking like a force to be reckoned with.
1. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
The 19-year-old from Afghanistan did not disappoint on his BBL debut, getting better the longer he bowled and turning the game on its head with the wickets of Gibson and Rohrer in the space of three balls. He was turning the ball both ways by the end of the innings, and suggested that he still has some room for improvement.
2. Peter Siddle (Adelaide Strikers)
Siddle’s bowling was almost perfect, bowling no bad balls in three overs and removing Buttler before he could do too much damage. He has managed to turn his remarkable accuracy into a major strength, and appears to have improved his T20 bowling.
3. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair looked more composed than his more experienced teammates with bat in hand, and took three big wickets as the Strikers looked to push on with their fast start. He showed excellent skills and turned the ball both ways, and looks to be an exciting young prospect.
4. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin was poor early, but a big second over ensured the Thunder could not get back in the game. He finished with four wickets as the batsmen looked to take him on, often falling in the attempt. His slower balls were as effective as ever, but there was definitely room for improvement.
5. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey showed why he was a contender to take the gloves for Australia with a top-class wicketkeeping display to back up a great innings. He fell just 6 short of a half-century, but found the middle of the bat well and played a lofted cover drive off Ahmed which was particularly impressive. He took a pair of nice catches and was almost flawless behind the stumps.