Heat just too good for workmanlike Thunder

Brisbane Heat vs Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder 149-4 (Watson 56, Ferguson 37, Shadab 27-2, Lalor 42-2) lost to Brisbane Heat 153-4 (Burns 45*, Peirson 43, Ross 25*, Lynn 25, McClenaghan 45-2) by 6 wickets (DLS) at the Gabba

The Brisbane Heat’s explosive batting line-up proved too strong for the Sydney Thunder, who failed to defend 151 in a rain-shortened match as Joe Burns and Alex Ross steered them home on the second last ball of the match. It was Ross who sealed it with an explosive cameo, hitting two fours and two sixes to reinvigorate a chase which had begun to stall on the back of some solid bowling in the slippery Brisbane night. In doing so, the Heat reaffirmed their status as one of the danger teams of the competition, and showed that they have plenty of room for improvement.

The Thunder made the unorthodox call to bat first, and while Jos Buttler and Kurtis Patterson were able to find the boundary early some tight bowling from Mark Steketee ensured the Heat took the early ascendency. Patterson was dismissed the ball before the players left the field for rain, with Josh Lalor cramping him for room and forcing him to bunt a catch to Ben Cutting on the mid-wicket boundary, and when the players resumed the over reduction left the Thunder with just five balls left in their PowerPlay.

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Death rattle: Shadab Khan breaks through Jos Buttler’s defences.

They made the most of them, with Buttler only denied a four by a brilliant headlong dive from Brendon McCullum and Shane Watson closing out the over with a pair of fours from short-pitched deliveries. Buttler fell a couple of overs later, undone by some clever bowling from Shadab Khan, but Watson had soon hit his stride. Mitchell Swepson was hit for two big sixes over mid-wicket and late cut for four through point, and fours off Steketee and Brendan Doggett allowed him to bring up his half-century in the twelfth over. At that point Watson, ably supported by the returning Callum Ferguson, looked set for a huge total, but it was not to be. On 56, he tried one big shot too many, taking on Shadab over cover and failing to clear the fence as Joe Burns ran around to take an excellent catch.

Ferguson and Ben Rohrer managed to finish the innings well, Ferguson’s damaging hitting and Rohrer’s experience allowing them to post a competitive total of 149 from a difficult position. The Thunder’s defence started perfectly, with McCullum dismissed by a brilliant Mitchell McClenaghan off cutter which beat his leading edge on its way to the off stump. The Heat hadn’t quite kicked off as they would have liked, and Jimmy Peirson was struggling to get going. Then Chris Lynn came to the crease.

To say Lynn’s return to competitive cricket was greatly anticipated would be something of an understatement. Lynn’s efforts last season were remarkable, and thanks to a recurrence of the shoulder injuries which have plagued his career his exploits have taken on a mythic significance. Now was the time when that reputation would be put to the test. His first ball proved that the power was still there, as he smote Fekete through the covers for a four. McClenaghan was spooked, and bowled two wides before being hit over mid-wicket for six. With two more fours off McClenaghan and a nice stroke through the covers off Chris Green, Lynn had 22 runs from six balls, and the parochial Gabba crowd were lapping it up. Then it was over before it had really begun, Watson taking the big wicket as Lynn failed to clear the man on the fence. The innings had promised so much it felt as if a first-ball duck would have been less of a disappointment.

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Still got it: Chris Lynn hits over cover during his cameo of 25 runs off 9 balls.

Lynn’s innings had provided a spark, and the Heat kept going as Burns joined Peirson and the pair steadied the ship with some nice batting. Peirson had just found some form and looked set for a much-needed half-century when he was dismissed, and when Cutting’s efforts as a pinch hitter fizzled out it looked as if the Thunder may actually close out an unlikely victory. That was until Ross, with composure and plenty of power, saw that the Heat’s fears were unfounded. Two sixes over mid-wicket, one in the 15th and another in the 16th, gave the hosts needing nine off the last over, and when Burns hit Fekete’s limp half volley for a huge six over mid-wicket, the game was all but sealed. In the end, the Thunder’s travails were just not enough, as the Heat found a way to get it done.

Top 5
1. Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder)
Watson made the game’s biggest individual contribution with both bat and ball, showing excellent power in his blistering 56 and bagging the massive wicket of Lynn just when he looked like taking the game away from them. His efforts were not enough in the end, but his solid bowling and powerful batting showed that his all-round talent is still intact.
2. Joe Burns (Brisbane Heat)
Burns was a steady presence in the last few overs, and while he was not able to find his best form his ability to hang around allowed Ross to get the Heat over the line. He hit a nice six to all but seal the deal for the Heat, and took a very nice catch to remove Watson as the Thunder looked to go for it.
3. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
Ross’ brilliant form continued with an excellent cameo, contrasting his steady knocks in the opening two games with a flurry of boundaries that got the Heat over the line. His boundaries came at crucial times and allowed the Heat to stay in the game as the Thunder tried desperately to close it out, and looks to be the Heat’s most versatile option.
4. Callum Ferguson (Sydney Thunder)
Ferguson looked in excellent touch on return from injury, and by the end of his innings he was hitting the ball with brutal force and finding the fence very effectively. His big hitting allowed the Thunder to post a very defendable 149, and he will only get better as he looks to regain his fluency.
5. James Peirson (Brisbane Heat)
Still looks out of form, but battled very well on his way to a key innings of 43. Saw McCullum and Lynn fall at the other end and worked hard to steady the innings and give the Heat a good platform. He kept very nicely, with a tough take above his head a particular highlight.

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