Hurricanes undone by lacklustre Stars

Melbourne Stars vs Hobart Hurricanes
Hobart Hurricanes 185-7 (Christian 56, Bailey 32, Reardon 32, Hastings 41-2) lost to Melbourne Stars 186-7 (Pietersen 46, Dunk 30, Mills 56-2) by 3 wickets at the MCG

For the Hobart Hurricanes, qualification was a formality. They had one game left, and a win would seal their spot in the Big Bash finals for the first time since 2014. Their opponents were the much-hyped but very disappointing Melbourne Stars, who had won just one match out of their previous nine. Sure, this was Kevin Pietersen’s farewell match, but the Stars just weren’t good enough.

Three hours later, the Hurricanes were in shock, and relying on results to go their way to secure that elusive finals berth. As they lost a match which saw plenty of bad cricket (on both sides) and was played with a jaunty lack of intensity throughout, they had to wonder where it all went wrong. Maybe they were unnerved by the Stars’ apparent lack of cricketing prowess. Maybe it was the fact that the Stars didn’t seem to care when their bowlers sprayed the ball around and their batsmen swung hard for inconsistent results. It was as if the Stars didn’t bother trying to play proper cricket, and it caught the Hurricanes off guard.

Sent in to bat, the Hurricanes didn’t start too well. There was a period this season where D’Arcy Short was hitting every ball in the middle and tearing attacks to shreds without presenting a chance. He was dismissed for a golden duck, by former Hurricane Ben Dunk. On the face of it, this doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider Dunk’s status as a wicketkeeper who doesn’t bowl and the fact that his first ball was sprayed a very long way down the leg-side. It was almost as if Short was done for lack of turn, overestimating the quality of his adversary’s darting straight-breaks. It was then that they should have noticed something was amiss.

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Unlikely hero: Ben Dunk celebrates after his ungainly off-spin dismisses the in-form D’Arcy Short.

It was hard to feel threatened, however, when the Stars bowled so badly. Daniel Worrall and Jackson Coleman were as inaccurate as they have been all season, and the latter started his spell with three wides on either side of the wicket. The Stars’ problems were compounded when Dunk managed to get himself a second over, and his lack of quality was promptly exposed by George Bailey’s aggression. Bailey and Matthew Wade steadied the ship against the awful Stars bowling, and the run rate was flying as the many bad balls were put away. The Stars looked strangely detached and didn’t really seem to care.

The next two wickets sneaked up on the Hurricanes. Bailey had played his most fluent innings of the season, but he was dismissed when he hit a short wide ball straight to point. Then John Hastings brought himself on and bagged the wicket of Wade, who top-edged a pull shot straight to deep mid-wicket. The Stars weren’t bowling any better, but they had the Hurricanes three down in the PowerPlay. It’s a position very few teams win from, but this seemed like an exception to the rule. Surely the Stars couldn’t win while pulling off the remarkable achievement of looking worse than they had all season.

Ben McDermott and Dan Christian came in with the Hurricanes needing to rebuild, despite no-one really knowing how the innings had fallen down. They succeeded initially, but the run rate slowed as the pair proceeded with caution. Both were working the ball around easily, and neither looked like getting out against the Stars’ feeble attack. There was an air of caution surrounding their play, but the Hurricanes knew that both men could hit the ball a long way if they chose. It was hardly time to panic.

Then McDermott went out. The wicket-taker was Liam Bowe, the bespectacled, slightly-stooped left-arm leg-spinner who was the Stars’ most consistent bowler. He tossed it up, McDermott missed his sweep, and the umpire took so long to raise his finger that Bowe had already stopped appealing and had started chasing the ball. It was a bizarre moment, but this was far from an ordinary game of cricket. When Simon Milenko creamed a cover drive straight to Hastings, the Hurricanes were once again in trouble, although it wasn’t clear how they had fallen so far.


Late flurry: Nathan Reardon gave the Hurricanes some late momentum with his rapid 32.

Christian and Nathan Reardon dragged their team out of the hole with some good late hitting. After a slow start, it was the latter who provided the spark. He hadn’t batted in an Australian domestic match since this time last year, but he punished the Stars’ lacklustre bowling anyway. Worrall was smacked for a pair of boundaries, and Hastings was treated with similar contempt. When Christian joined in on the act by raising his fifty with some big hitting against Evan Gulbis, the Hurricanes had built an imposing total. An eventful last over brought two wickets and 16 runs with plenty of action in between, and the Hurricanes seemed to be safe against a Stars batting line-up that had struggled to make an impact.

The Stars didn’t start their chase well, with the Hurricanes bowling tightly and subduing Dunk and Peter Handscomb well. Handscomb was dismissed before he could have an impact, and while Dunk hit a series of boundaries against Clive Rose and Tymal Mills he never went on to greater things. It was Short who dismissed him after a pull shot went wrong, and James Faulkner was soon gone too after picking out the man on the square-leg boundary. The Stars were three down, and still a very long way from their target. Surely the Hurricanes could breath easy. Surely.

At this point Pietersen strode to the wicket to join fellow retiree Rob Quiney. Neither man had anything to lose, and a potentially dangerous period was coming up for the Hurricanes. Both sought to be carefree, but they could only take the odd boundary off the Hurricanes’ spinners, and the Stars were too far behind the eight ball for the occasional big hits to make an impression. Quiney was run out to end his final BBL innings, and the Hurricanes could finally relax. Now, surely, it was done.

Then Hastings decided to promote himself up the order. The required run rate was slipping out of the Stars’ control, and their captain attempted to break the game open. He succeeded. His previous innings in this Big Bash had been brief and eventful, full of big swings and embarrassing misses. Now, just when the Hurricanes needed a quiet few overs to seal the win, he came out and deposited Cameron Boyce over the boundary. Twice. In a sign of what was to come Pietersen slapped Mills for a pair of boundaries, and the Hurricanes were starting to get a little nervous.

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Last bow: Kevin Pietersen acknowledges the ovation after his last innings in the BBL.

Mills eventually removed Hastings for 20 off 6 balls, and the run rate slowed, but the Stars were in with a chance. Pietersen and Seb Gotch batted calmly without making major inroads, until Mills came on for his third over. At this point the English recruit had 1/29 from two overs, but Bailey backed him to make the breakthrough. He did, removing Pietersen with an excellent return catch. Unfortunately, the retiring star had already taken 18 runs from the first four balls of Mills’ over, and the damage was done.

The Stars still needed 29 from 18 balls, with three wickets in hand. Sensing a chance to end it, Bailey threw the ball to Archer. Throughout this season, Archer has made things happen. A stunning catch here. A run out there. A devastating spell of reverse-swinging yorkers thrown in. Now, when his team needed him, he made the wrong things happen. A yorker went horribly wrong, and the full toss was fired at Worrall’s midriff. The fast bowler could only slash at the ball, but it was going so fast the edge flew to the boundary. Then, with 20 needed from 13 balls, Gulbis hit him for six, and the Hurricanes had too many fielders outside the ring. No-ball. Free hit. It was a horrendous gaffe, and the Stars capitalised. They needed 12 off 12.

With the first ball of the last over, Worrall cut Christian through the field and it began to run away to the long boundary. Some Hurricanes chased, and the rest could only watch on with bated breath and an increasing sense of despair. The ball was still rolling as it hit the rope, completing the Hurricanes’ calamitous collapse. In the end, they got their finals place, with the Brisbane Heat never looking like toppling the Melbourne Renegades, but this loss will stick in the memory. It’s hard to say where it went wrong, but the fact that it did should be a major concern for the finals-bound but confidence-shattered Hurricanes.

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Rashid nearly crashes farewell party, but Scorchers just keep winning

Perth Scorchers vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 137-6 (Weatherald 56, Carey 25, Richardson 23-2, Kelly 31-2, Bresnan 34-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 141-6 (Voges 56*, Bancroft 49, Rashid 20-3) by 4 wickets at the WACA

For seven seasons of the BBL, the Perth Scorchers have called the WACA their home. It has hosted more BBL finals than any other ground, and the Scorchers’ loyal fans have witnessed some great moments. Now, it was in its final hours as a Big Bash ground, with the glitzy new multi-purpose stadium that is set to replace it as the home of West Australian cricket looming large in the background. On the field, it was a battle of the two best attacks in the league, and the Scorchers saw off the top-of-the-table Adelaide Strikers by following a pattern their home fans had seen many times before. Sure, Rashid Khan gave them a bit of a scare with a destructive spell of leg-spin bowling, but they were always going to get home. It was close, but it just wouldn’t have been fitting any other way.

With a finals berth already sealed, Strikers coach Jason Gillespie saw an opportunity to tinker with his previously successful batting order. It backfired. Alex Carey was demoted from his usual opening position, and the Strikers started slowly against the typically miserly Scorchers attack. Jono Dean, coming in with a blue bat in hand and a long mane of dark brown hair protruding from the back of his helmet, never got going before swinging hard and bunting a catch to Mitchell Johnson at mid-off. Jake Weatherald was subdued despite hitting his first two balls for six. Colin Ingram, days after hitting a devastating 68 against the Melbourne Renegades, was tied down before he was dismissed after edging a slow short ball on his hip straight to Cameron Bancroft. Jonathan Wells batted time without making an impact, and fell after diverting a wide ball from Tim Bresnan straight into Johnson’s safe hands.

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Death rattle: Alex Carey’s entertaining cameo comes to an end at the hands of Jhye Richardson.

Weatherald went on to register his second fifty of the season, but he departed to an excellent Matthew Kelly yorker and the Strikers found themselves in even deeper trouble. The opener had borne the brunt of the run-scoring as his teammates struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack, and now the Strikers looked particularly vulnerable. Then Carey came in, and batted with freedom and power. He cleared the front leg and swung hard, and he got a few clean shots away to put the Scorchers under pressure and make a mockery of his demotion. His cameo was all-too-short, and the Strikers meagre total never looked good enough. The WACA crowd had seen this script before, and there was only one way the Scorchers’ tenure at the ground was going to end: with a Scorchers victory underpinned by their dominant bowling unit.

Unfortunately, no-one let Rashid know. It wasn’t too much of an issue when Sam Whiteman and Michael Klinger managed to pick out fielders in the inner circle. The Scorchers had ridden out such early troubles on countless occasions, and it was just a slight tremor induced by the tall, fast and downright dangerous Billy Stanlake. Then Rashid sensed an opportunity, and the loss of the openers mattered a bit more. Hilton Cartwright made the costly mistake of taking the Afghan leg-spinner on, and paid the price as his poorly-hit slog found the fielder at mid-wicket. Then Ashton Turner, so often a hero for the Scorchers with his brutal hitting, was beaten by a brilliant googly and hit on the thigh. He was given out lbw, and Rashid ran past everyone in a jubilant celebration. The Scorchers had lost 4 wickets in 5 overs as the tremor became a collapse. This wasn’t meant to happen, and a stunned silence fell over the home crowd.

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Nervous moments: Rashid Khan celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Ashton Turner for a golden duck.

Then Bancroft and Adam Voges stepped up to mount a recovery. It’s just how the Scorchers do things. Bancroft, who had come in after Whiteman helped a poor ball from Michael Neser straight to Stanlake at fine-leg, had witnessed the collapse from the relative safety of the non-striker’s end. Now, in conjunction with his captain, he steadied the ship. It wasn’t quick, or the kind of blazing counterattack one might expect from a less-mature team. Instead, it was a partnership which epitomised the Scorchers’ style: no bluster, no panic, just a calm response to the problem at hand. Together, Bancroft and Voges began to make headway. The ball began to find the boundary with increasing regularity, and the runs were flowing at a dangerous rate for the Strikers. Then the errors started to seep into their game. The bowlers made slight errors which were punished by the two set batsmen. Rashid, fielding at long-off, was far too casual in his attempts to collect Bancroft’s rolling off-drive, and it slipped through his legs for four. Ingram decided to bring himself on, and the batsmen hit around with little fuss. The Scorchers were in control.

Then Rashid re-entered the attack. He had bowled two more overs since his devastating pair of early wickets, keeping the runs down but failing to break through the Scorchers’ solid defences. Now, just three balls were left in his spell, and Bancroft, on 49, received a floating ball outside off stump. Predictably, he sought to drive, leaving his defence completely exposed as Rashid’s perfect googly crashed into his stumps. Rashid, arms outstretched in celebration, gave him a contemptuous stare as he trudged from the ground. When Ashton Agar struggled to get going before being undone by an unexpected Ben Laughlin bouncer, the Scorchers still needed 14 to win off 10 balls. It was far from over. That was before Voges stepped up. He had taken a pair of boundaries off the eighteenth over, and when Neser started the last over with a full toss it was clinically dispatched for the first six of the innings. Voges brought up his fifty with the shot, and the home crowd could finally relax when Bresnan closed it out two balls later. In the end, the Scorchers ended their time at the WACA doing what they do best: winning.

Top 5
1. Adam Voges (Perth Scorchers)
Voges came in after the Scorchers’ top order had collapsed, but his calmness under pressure allowed his side to come away with the win. He put the rare bad balls away well, and his ability to turn the strike over ensured the Scorchers continued to progress steadily in their chase. His unbeaten half-century against a very strong attack comes at a good time with finals just around the corner, and he deserves credit for playing through the pain of a dislocated finger.
2. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
It was previously thought that this would be Rashid’s last game of the tournament, and the Strikers will be breathing a sigh of relief that this is no longer the case. He only furthered his reputation with another masterful performance, spinning through the Scorchers’ middle-order and creating plenty of problems. His ability to turn the ball both ways was on full display, and he looks to have hit top form.
3. Jhye Richardson (Perth Scorchers)
Richardson put in his best bowling performance of the season to peg the Strikers back time and again, landing the ball exactly where he wanted it and collecting a pair of key wickets at the death. After a couple of poor games prior to his departure for international duty he seems to have regained his touch, and his pace will be a handful in the finals.
4. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft fell just one run short of his half-century, but he deserves credit for his combination with Voges in a match-winning partnership. He hit the ball solidly when he looked to attack, and he put some pressure back on the Strikers as his innings progressed and he found the fence more often. He will be very happy with his performances since coming into the Scorchers’ team.
5. Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Weatherald was the only Strikers batsman to find any real form, batting calmly and progressing to a confident half-century with some powerful shots. He started his innings with a pair of sixes, and he batted calmly even when his partners struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack. He showed an excellent temperament, which should hold him in good stead as the season comes to a close.

Thunder don’t die wondering, but can’t keep their season alive

Sydney Thunder vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 189-6 (Harris 64, Short 28, Sandhu 37-2) def Sydney Thunder 180 (Rohrer 48, Nair 45, Richardson 22-4, Pollard 19-2, Tremain 33-2) by 9 runs at Manuka Oval

The Sydney Thunder needed to win to stay in the competition. It was as simple as that. There was no need to worry about the mysterious permutations thrown up by net run rates and the like. There was only the Melbourne Renegades, who probably needed to win to make finals but quite possibly didn’t given the murky nature of top four qualification. Either way, it was a big match, and a chance for the Thunder to steal a finals berth against a weakened Renegades side. They couldn’t manage, delivering an inconsistent effort with the bat and ball, and compounding their woes with some dismal efforts in the field. They were lucky to get as close as they did to pulling off a remarkable heist.

The Thunder were put under pressure early thanks to Marcus Harris. It was Harris’ lucky night, and he capitalised with his best knock of the season. He was lucky to keep his place, only playing the match thanks to Brad Hodge’s late scratching. He was lucky to receive a series of half-volleys and full tosses from the usually accurate Gurinder Sandhu, allowing him to pierce the off-side field twice in the first over. He was lucky when he nicked a swinging length delivery from the same bowler, only for the tough chance to rebound off the outstretched glove of Jay Lenton into the Manuka Oval turf. He was lucky when Chris Green and Shane Watson dropped too short, gave him too much room or did both, and by the end of the PowerPlay the Renegades had plundered 59 runs. He was lucky when, with his score on 61, an apparent edge to Lenton did not result in a raised finger, and he was even luckier when he hit a pull shot straight down Sandhu’s throat – only for Sandhu to drop the easy catch. His luck finally ran out the next ball, with Green slipping past his nondescript swing, but the damage was done. Beneath his good fortune there lay an innings of exceptional quality, filled with a pair of well-struck sixes and some delightful strokes off the middle of the bat. He was in brilliant touch, and he made batting look easy against the Thunder’s feeble efforts.


Big innings: Marcus Harris pulls during his key innings of 64.

At the other end, Matthew Short also reaped the benefits of the Thunder’s particularly loose opening. He hit Watson for a pair of boundaries, and was reprieved shortly afterwards when Ahmed made a shocking error. Short’s limp paddle around the corner was a very hard catch to drop, but Ahmed managed to put it down anyway. It wouldn’t have counted due to Mitchell McClenaghan’s no-ball, although it did not bode well for the Thunder’s chances. Ahmed eventually removed the opener himself, with Short caught mid-stride, beaten, and easily stumped by Lenton. Tom Cooper was run out after slipping in the middle of the pitch, and Dwayne Bravo never really got going before presenting McClenaghan with a return catch. The innings had fallen into a slump, and when Kieron Pollard and Jack Wildermuth departed in consecutive balls the Thunder seemed to have averted the worst of the damage. Then McClenaghan had a shocker. To describe his last over as very erratic would not be doing it justice, and Beau Webster capitalised by dispatching the innings’ last four balls for 18 runs to put the Renegades firmly in the box seat.

The Thunder shouldn’t have been close. They adopted a boom-or-bust approach in pursuing the massive target, and both James Vince and Kurtis Patterson fell to skied pull shots which were well caught by the Renegades’ nerveless boundary riders. Then Watson came in and clubbed a trio of sixes over mid-wicket, with Lenton adding a pair of well-hit sixes at the other end to provide some hope. It didn’t last. Watson fell to a stunning diving catch from Pollard and Lenton holed out to Webster, and the Thunder’s decision to swing for the fences looked to have set them on the path to a big loss. Then Arjun Nair and Ben Rohrer came together, and the Thunder’s approach started to work.

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Top catch: Kieron Pollard is completely focused as he removes Shane Watson with an excellent diving catch.

It was an unlikely pairing. Nair has bowled very well over the course of this season, but after receiving a 90-day suspension from delivering his mystery off-spinners it was unclear why he was still in the team. Now he was coming in at number five, and looked at least two spots too high in the batting order. At the start of this season, Rohrer was the grizzled veteran set to give the Thunder’s batting a bit of steel and some late-innings power. He had done neither. With their team’s season on the line, however, the pair found some form. Nair provided the spark, hitting very big sixes for fun despite his diminutive frame. It didn’t seem like much of a threat, not least because Nair didn’t look capable of keeping it up. Then Rohrer got in on the act, with one very big over. Wildermuth was the bowler, and his first two balls were wide and slapped to the vacant off-side boundary. The next four balls went to the fence as well, as Wildermuth showed neither the ability nor the foresight to bowl to his field and paid a heavy price. Rohrer took 28 from the over, and the Renegades were under pressure.

With his side in a bit of trouble, Kane Richardson stepped up. He had bowled two tight overs early, and he entered the attack looking to stop the flow of runs. It took him one over to remove Nair and Rohrer, with both joining their teammates in picking out men on the boundary, and he followed up with two more in his next over as Aiden Blizzard and Sandhu failed to make an impact. The Thunder weren’t completely done, and Green continued to fight with a series of lusty blows, but without Nair and Rohrer they couldn’t get the job done. It was sealed when McClenaghan was trapped in front by Pollard, and the fact that the big Kiwi was the only man who didn’t present the Renegades with a high catch spoke volumes about the Thunder’s unsuccessful approach on the night. They simply weren’t good enough.

Top 5
1. Kane Richardson (Melbourne Renegades)
Richardson came on for his second spell with the Renegades under pressure, and delivered in a big way with four crucial wickets. He made two massive breakthroughs in removing Nair and Rohrer, and put the Renegades on the brink of the finals with his accurate, miserly and match-winning efforts.
2. Marcus Harris (Melbourne Renegades)
Harris played a key role at the top of the order, making batting look very easy on a slightly two-paced wicket and putting the Thunder’s lacklustre bowling to the sword. His half-century was a welcome relief for him after he was initially dropped from the squad, and should be enough to seal his place for the remainder of the tournament.
3. Ben Rohrer (Sydney Thunder)
Rohrer started slowly as Nair looked to push the pace from the other end, but he got himself going by plundering 28 from one Wildermuth over. His clean striking gave the Renegades a very nasty scare with just a few overs to go, and he was unlucky to fall just two runs short of a half-century. He can draw some comfort from his best performance of the season.
4. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair showed some previously hidden batting talents in compiling a surprisingly powerful 45 to put the Renegades under a bit of pressure. Some of his slog sweeps went an extraordinarily long way given his lack of size, and he showed that he can prove a handful even if he is unable to bowl.
5. Matthew Short (Melbourne Renegades)
Short’s contribution could be easily forgotten thanks to Harris’ fluency at the other end, but his efforts in compiling a classy 28 allowed the Renegades to compile the formidable opening partnership which ultimately proved the difference. He looked completely at ease against the Thunder’s bowling, and should be a good prospect for the Renegades.

Maxwell does well, Sixers do better

Sydney Sixers vs Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 189-5 (Maxwell 83, Quiney 37, Brathwaite 31-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 190-5 (Denly 72*, Maddinson 61, Gulbis 22-2, Hastings 27-2) by 5 wickets at the SCG

The Melbourne Stars looked to have turned a corner. After their highly-rated squad had slumped into last place with just one win from their first eight games, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel. It came from the bat of Glenn Maxwell, whose game-breaking abilities saw him rise to international stardom and, counterintuitively, led to his controversial dropping from the Australian side. For the first time this season, Maxwell had come out playing his natural game, and had carted the Sydney Sixers to all corners of the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Stars managed to lose anyway.

Maxwell had come in after the Stars’ top order collapsed – again. Ben Dunk’s innings ended in another failure as he found himself thoroughly beaten by a Ben Dwarshuis off-cutter. Then Peter Handscomb, after starting his innings brightly, was caught out as he advanced against Carlos Brathwaite. The Stars were in trouble, and Maxwell started against this all-too-familiar backdrop. This time, however, he did something about it. The onslaught began from the first ball he faced, as he swivel-pulled a Sean Abbott short ball to the square leg boundary and followed it up with a pair of effortless sixes over the leg-side. He had raced to an ominous 16 off 4 balls, but the way he tempered his aggression in the next over suggested he was in for the long haul.


Anything you can do… : Glenn Maxwell flicks one to the leg side during his well-played innings of 84.

He continued to push on, unfazed by pre-existing eye issues and a back injury acquired after an ill-fated attempt at a reverse sweep. Soon he had brought up his half-century off just 23 balls, and he kept going. Johan Botha was hit for a pair of boundaries, and when Abbott strayed short and wide he was belted for a pair of carbon copy fours over point. He continued to deal in singles, never allowing the attack to settle and looking set for a century. At the other end, Rob Quiney found some form. The veteran was only playing due to an injury to Kevin Pietersen, and he made the most of his chance by combining with Maxwell to devastating effect. He began slowly, content to give his in-form partner plenty of strike, but started to strike out with a series of graceful boundaries to leave the Sixers on the ropes. When he carted Nathan Lyon over cover for a powerful six, the Stars were cruising at 2/137.

Then Quiney went out, Lyon slipping one past his overzealous slog and Peter Nevill breaking the stumps with relish. Soon, Seb Gotch and Maxwell had followed him, the latter falling for 84 after chipping Brathwaite straight to Abbott on the cover boundary. The blow took the wind out of the Stars’ sails, as James Faulkner collected another ineffective not out at the end of the innings and Evan Gulbis couldn’t repair the damage. Viewed through that lens, their final tally of 189 was slightly disappointing, but their best total of the season should have been more than enough.

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… I can do better: Nic Maddinson overshadowed Maxwell’s contribution with an even more destructive innings of 61.

They didn’t get close. Daniel Hughes was unluckily dismissed after the first over, with Gulbis running around, diving full length and catching the full-blooded pull shot one-handed, but Joe Denly and Nic Maddinson were not concerned. The pair delivered an exhibition in ball striking, and the Stars had no answer to the relentless torrent of boundaries which ensued. When Faulkner came on for the fifth over he was belted for six fours by the red-hot Maddinson, and, despite the huge task ahead of them, the Sixers were ahead in the game. The PowerPlay ended with the Sixers sitting pretty at 1/71, but neither man relented. When Liam Bowe, the Stars’ bespectacled leg-spinner, entered the fray he was mercilessly belted for a trio of powerful sixes, and Maddinson had soon one-upped Maxwell by reaching fifty off 22 deliveries. At the other end, Denly’s fairly quick progress was made to look pedestrian, and soon the game was out of the visitors’ control.

Maddinson was eventually trapped in front, but Moises Henriques attacked with equal vigour and the Stars simply had no answer as the game slipped from their grasp. Denly brought up a well-deserved fifty, and proved an island of calm as Henriques, Botha and Brathwaite all fell, but the Stars couldn’t scramble their way back into the game. The final touch came from the bat of Nevill, who hit his first ball for a clean four through mid-wicket. It was a suitably emphatic close to a dominant chase, and denied the Stars one of their last chances to redeem their already lost season. It’s just not their year.

Top 5
1. Nic Maddinson (Sydney Sixers)
Maddinson came in after the first over of the chase, and put the Sixers in the box seat with some clean striking. He hit Faulkner for six fours in an over, and in conjunction with Denly he put a massive dent in the total. He was out in the tenth over, but his counter-attacking innings completely changed the momentum of the match and allowed his side to get the win.
2. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell was in a noticeably aggressive mood from the start of his innings, gaining effortless power from his wrists and putting the Sixers under plenty of pressure from his first ball. His carefree attitude allowed him to bring up his fifty off just 23 balls despite coming in with his side in a rough spot, and he showed that he’s a better player when he bats freely.
3. Joe Denly (Sydney Sixers)
Denly put in a surprisingly solid all-round performance, bowling some handy overs of leg-spin and acting as the anvil to Maddinson’s battering ram as the Sixers ran down the Stars’ big target. He batted through the innings and played a number of very nice shots, and he was a steadying presence as the Stars picked up some late wickets.
4. Rob Quiney (Melbourne Stars)
Quiney was in top form with bat in hand, stroking the ball around calmly to start his innings and finding the boundary regularly as it went on. He played a series of beautiful shots, including some very well-hit lofts over cover, and showed more aggression than he did in his few early-tournament innings. He combined very well with Maxwell, and their partnership was nearly enough for the Stars.
5. Carlos Brathwaite (Sydney Sixers)
Like most of the bowlers in a high-scoring game, Brathwaite was hit around a bit, but he still managed to pick up a pair of valuable wickets. He did well to remove Maxwell just as the Stars were mounting for a late charge, and he managed to keep things tight at the death to stop the target from slipping above 200. He capped it off with some nice shots to wrap up the chase, and finished his time in Australia well.

Ingram blitz proves too much for Renegades

Melbourne Renegades vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 173-5 (Ingram 68, Head 58, Carey 32, Bravo 30-2) def Melbourne Renegades 147-7 (Hodge 30*, Harris 25, Laughlin 18-2, Stanlake 22-2, Rashid 26-2) by 26 runs at Etihad Stadium

Ben Laughlin had few options available to him as he caught Dwayne Bravo’s ungainly lofted cover drive. He was in mid-air, at the top of a big jump, and the boundary line was getting very close, very quickly. All his momentum was carrying him towards the rope, and he was travelling too fast to throw the ball to himself and catch it back in-bounds. It was unfortunate, but he would just have to settle for saving the six. As expected, he flung the ball back into the field of play as he flew, full-length, over the rope. It seemed like an unnecessarily long throw, but he had saved six runs anyway. Then Jake Weatherald took the catch, and realisation at what Laughlin had just pulled off morphed into disbelief. It was hard to estimate how far he had thrown the pass, but his accuracy was perfect. The Melbourne Renegades were already on the ropes in their critical clash with the Adelaide Strikers. Laughlin’s miraculous effort all but snuffed out the chance of an unlikely comeback.

The Strikers started their innings slowly, with Weatherald’s poor season continuing as he chopped Chris Tremain onto his stumps and Travis Head never really getting going against the Renegades’ disciplined bowling attack. Alex Carey provided a momentary break in the Renegades’ control with a pair of perfectly-timed straight drives off the bowling of Kane Richardson, but by the end of the PowerPlay the hosts were well on top. Then, as they have done so often this season, Carey and Head did something about it. Head provided the spark, greeting Tremain’s return to the attack with a clean six over mid-wicket and a crisply hit cut shot for four. Soon Carey began to join in, hitting a pair of slog sweeps which picked the gap on the leg-side boundary and showing plenty of intent. Suddenly he was gone. All too soon, his entertaining innings was over, cut short by a lofted cover drive which didn’t quite go the distance and found the safe hands of Marcus Harris on the boundary. The Strikers still hadn’t put their opposition under enough pressure, and their chances of posting an imposing total looked slim even as Head moved to a steady half-century.


Powerful: Colin Ingram is in full flight during his important 68.

Then Colin Ingram stepped up. His season has been marked by a series of false starts and innings which never got off the ground, but this game was different as he showcased his immense ball-striking ability to devastating effect. He showed some early glimpses, hitting Brad Hogg for a pair of powerful boundaries and flicking Dwayne Bravo to the fine-leg fence with contemptuous ease, but he really picked up the pace when Richardson came on for the eighteenth over. The newly-selected member of Australia’s T20 team was deposited into the stands with a pair of effortless bottom-hand swats which threatened to land in the second tier of Etihad Stadium. Kieron Pollard came on and dismissed Head, but before he could quell the Strikers’ momentum Ingram had belted his last two balls for another two sixes. He fell with the second-last ball of the innings, but not before a Bravo full toss had joined the steady procession of balls flying into the stands and the game had been placed firmly in the Strikers’ control. Ingram’s cameo set up the game, and his teammates went out and won it.

The Renegades never found enough momentum against the Strikers’ diverse attack. Harris and Tim Ludeman were able to find some runs against the pace of Michael Neser and Billy Stanlake, but the innings was derailed when Peter Siddle made the breakthrough. Ludeman departed, picking up a fine edge and allowing Carey to take a comfortable catch. The dismissal of their former teammate allowed the visitors to tighten the screws, with Ben Laughlin, Siddle and Rashid Khan keeping things tight and allowing the batsmen no breathing room. Harris and Cameron White, the latter very fresh from international duty, couldn’t score at more than a run a ball, and the game was beginning to slip away.

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Miracle worker: Ben Laughlin prepares to make his extraordinary backhand pass to Jake Weatherald.

As the Renegades felt the pressure, the Strikers began to pick them off. If the roof was on, Harris’ skied slog off the bowling of Stanlake may well have hit it. As it happened, all it found was the exposed Melbourne night sky, and the gloves of Carey as the keeper took a remarkably composed catch given the difficulty of the chance. Eventually White looked to break his pattern of slow-scoring by slog sweeping Rashid Khan. He missed, and was clean-bowled by the Afghan’s devastating googly. Tom Cooper had a crack, and hit some nice shots, but a top-edge off Stanlake allowed Carey to take another very high catch.

By now, the Renegades were hanging their hopes on the explosiveness of Kieron Pollard and Bravo. It was a long shot. Both men were early members of the cult of the freelance cricketer, but their single-handed match-winning ability has since diminished, replaced by experience and smarter, less powerful cricket. Then Laughlin, or, rather, Weatherald, took that catch, and their faint hopes were all but gone. Pollard, in his first BBL outing, had walked to the crease wearing a cap and a gold watch. It was a brash entrance, and the innings never quite lived up to it. He departed against the bowling of Laughlin, holing out in the deep, and the last remnants of life were sucked from the game by the ruthless Strikers attack. They needed 44 from the last over, and a series of boundaries from Brad Hodge in the dying embers of the game could only lessen the inevitable damage to the Renegades’ net run rate. They still have a good shot of making the finals, but their performance against a top side leaves plenty to be desired.

Top 5
1. Colin Ingram (Adelaide Strikers)
Ingram finally hit his stride with a series of crushing sixes as the innings came to a close, and his bulldozing 68 allowed the Strikers to post a total that was always too good for the Renegades. He made a mockery of the Renegades’ death bowling with his ridiculous power, and he seems to have found form at the right time.
2. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin played an excellent game, keeping things tight with the ball and pulling off one of the all-time great catches to remove Bravo and seal the win for the Strikers. His variation and unerring accuracy proved too much for the Renegades, and he picked up a couple of big wickets along the way to seal the win for his side.
3. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head was in solid touch on return from Australian duty, and he played a mature innings on a tough pitch to get the Strikers to a winning score. His steady half-century included some very nice shots, but it was combination with Ingram which laid the foundation for the Strikers’ key victory. As ever, his shrewd captaincy allowed the bowling attack to thrive.
4. Billy Stanlake (Adelaide Strikers)
Stanlake bowled with plenty of pace, routinely hitting the high-140s and early-150s and making the Renegades uncomfortable as a result. He used his combination of speed and accuracy to great effect, and bagged a pair of key wickets along the way. He has been one of the Strikers’ biggest weapons, and showed all of his skills.
5. Brad Hodge (Melbourne Renegades)
Most of Hodge’s runs came in the last four balls of the innings when the match was already decided, but he deserves credit for a powerful innings which may well prove crucial if the last finals spot comes down to net run rate. He struck the ball very cleanly, and hit one six which landed in the top tier of Etihad Stadium. He is one of the few Renegades who can hold their head high.

Heat’s record-breaking implosion gives the Sixers an easy win

Sydney Sixers vs Brisbane Heat
Brisbane Heat 73 (Abbott 11-4, Lyon 17-2, Brathwaite 20-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 74-1 (Hughes 37) by 9 wickets at the SCG

Carlos Brathwaite, the flamboyant West Indian all-rounder, came in to bowl to Josh Lalor. The Brisbane Heat, with their early season momentum beginning to peter out, had entered their key clash with the already eliminated Sydney Sixers in the middle of a tight battle for a coveted spot in the top four. As Brathwaite prepared to bowl to Lalor, the Heat, batting first, were nine down in the middle of the seventeenth over following a shambolic collapse, and finals were the furthest thing from their minds. Lalor looked to hit Brathwaite down the ground, and couldn’t have picked out Jordan Silk any better. Lalor’s soft dismissal was reminiscent of a handful of others in the Heat’s horrific batting effort, and their total of 73 was never going to give the Sixers too many problems. After all, no matter how easy the Heat made it look, it’s quite hard to get bowled out for less than 74.


Long walk: Ben Cutting trudges off the field after holing out against the accurate Nathan Lyon.

It’s hard to overstate just how bad the Heat were. Brendon McCullum, the Heat’s talismanic captain and best batsman, looked to attack Johan Botha in his usually brash style, but his lofted drive was a poor shot and was caught by a diving Brathwaite at mid-off. Marnus Labuschagne, replacing the injured Joe Burns at number 3, was no match for Ben Dwarshuis, and struggled through four balls before chipping a catch to Moises Henriques at square leg. When Sam Heazlett decided to have a crack against Nathan Lyon and mishit the ball straight to Silk, a series of soft dismissals and poorly played shots had reduced the Heat to 3/12, and they were in big trouble.

A slight recovery came courtesy of Alex Ross and Jimmy Peirson, who came together midway through the catastrophic PowerPlay and, for a fleeting moment, provided a bit of steel. Peirson took Lyon on with power and timing, and both looked confident. Then Peirson played a nothing shot against the bowling of Sean Abbott, and the Heat’s explosive batting line-up went into self-destruct mode. Ross was gone later in the over, undone by a ball from Abbott which reared up off the uneven SCG pitch and caught a fine edge on its way through to Peter Nevill. Ben Cutting came out and showed no awareness of the game situation, looking to slog sweep Lyon with little consideration for the fielder on the long boundary. Jason Floros, brought in for his first game of the season, couldn’t halt the slide, and had soon joined the collapse by top edging a pull shot to a jubilant Lyon at short mid-wicket. Lalor and Mark Steketee briefly stemmed the flow of wickets, but when Steketee eventually fell to a top-edged hook shot and another stunning Brathwaite catch the Heat provided no further resistance.

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Not even close: Yasir Shah swings hard and is bowled for a golden duck.

The Sixers knocked off the runs with little fuss, as the Heat came out aggressively but couldn’t make inroads against the composed pair of Joe Denly and Daniel Hughes. They were halfway to their target after just five overs, with Hughes finding the boundary with regularity and Denly keeping things steady at the other end. A top edged hook shot from Hughes provided the first six of the match, and when he was trapped in front by Yasir Shah the in-form Nic Maddinson came in and closed out the match with some powerful hitting. He lofted his second ball for six over mid-off, and when he launched Floros’ first ball into the stands the chase was all but done. With ten runs required, Maddinson miscued a slog off Floros high into the air. Three Heat fielders triangulated the ball, but it wasn’t clear who was taking the catch. Floros’ outstretched hand, extended at the last minute, missed the ball completely. It was a perfect representation of a night where the Heat didn’t even get close, and it leaves them out of the finals and in big trouble with just one game to play.

Top 5
1. Sean Abbott (Sydney Sixers)
Abbott drove a wedge through the Heat’s batting by running through Peirson and Ross after their consolidating partnership and finishing with the outstanding figures of 4/11. He bowled at an uncomfortable length, and managed to extract some uneven bounce which produced some unplayable deliveries. He will be satisfied with his best bowling performance of the season.
2. Nathan Lyon (Sydney Sixers)
Lyon used his accuracy to great effect and picked up some big wickets, putting the ball on the spot and letting the Heat’s irrational batting do the rest. He showed all of the confidence which oozed from his recent Test performances, and claimed a catch to cap off an excellent performance. He seems to be enjoying himself on the field, and could be a bolter for Australia’s struggling ODI side.
3. Daniel Hughes (Sydney Sixers)
Hughes ensured there were no nervous moments in the Sixers’ pursuit with an effective innings of 37, getting a series of boundaries away to eliminate the Heat within the first six overs. He batted with confidence, and the Sixers will be ruing the fact that he struck form too late to save their long dead finals hopes.
4. Carlos Brathwaite (Sydney Sixers)
Brathwaite took a pair of brilliant diving catches at either end of the innings, and closed out the Heat’s dismal batting effort with accurate bowling and a series of flamboyant celebrations. He has showcased his skills since arriving in Australia, and another excellent performance highlighted just how much he has brought to the table for the previously struggling Sixers.
5. Johan Botha (Sydney Sixers)
Botha bowled economically throughout, removing McCullum in the second over and sowing the seeds for the Heat’s historically poor total with some shrewd captaincy and crafty off-spin. He never really looked like taking a second wicket, but the Heat couldn’t score off him and he was able to pile on pressure at the other end. He didn’t bowl a bad ball in his four-over spell.

Late storm not enough as Hurricanes fall to Carey classic

Adelaide Strikers vs Hobart Hurricanes
Adelaide Strikers 187-4 (Carey 100, Weatherald 65, Archer 27-3) def Hobart Hurricanes 176-4 (Doolan 70*, McDermott 45, Short 28) by 11 runs at Adelaide Oval

D’Arcy Short was on strike, and looked slightly tied down against the disciplined bowling of the Adelaide Strikers. The Hobart Hurricanes were behind in their pursuit of the Strikers’ formidable 187, and the in-form Short was shaping as their biggest hope. With the last ball of his second over Michael Neser delivered a slower ball pitching on a good length. It was the kind of delivery Short has smoked to the boundary in his previous innings, but this time he could only get a slight edge off the toe of the bat. Alex Carey, taking the gloves after compiling a first-innings century in sweltering conditions at the Adelaide Oval, dived forwards with his legs spread, and took the catch easily. The Strikers’ initial reaction was one of subdued shock giving way to elation, as the BBL’s leading run scorer was dismissed. The Hurricanes fought hard, and gave the hosts a late scare with a series of boundaries, but without Short’s clean-hitting and dependable presence they just couldn’t get over the line as the Strikers moved to the top of the table.

The Strikers benefitted from an opening partnership which laid a formidable platform. Carey was the main man, marching to an imperious century with poise and power. He was perfectly calm despite a slow start, and when the runs started to flow he began to put the Hurricanes under pressure. He closed out the PowerPlay with a flat six against Tymal Mills, and displayed excellent temperament as he continued to work the ball around and run up the score with some clinical batting. He survived after skying one against D’Arcy Short following some calamitous fielding from Cameron Boyce, and with the aid of some shocking mishaps on the boundary he cruised to 73 off 46 balls. Then he exploded. Dan Christian, bowling the sixteenth over, was the victim of the savage assault, with ball after ball flying off the middle of the bat and running to the boundary. 22 came from the over, and Carey brought up a classy century with an easy single to the mid-wicket boundary off the bowling of Boyce. He let some rare emotion cross his usually unflustered face as he celebrated the second ton of the season, and the Hurricanes were in big trouble.


Partners in crime: Alex Carey (left) and Jake Weatherald celebrate after Carey brings up his century.

Their problems were exacerbated by Jake Weatherald’s dramatic return to form. Weatherald came into the game out of touch and under pressure, having failed to deliver an innings worthy of his immense talent and ball striking ability. He started slowly as the Hurricanes sought to tie him down with the left-arm spin of Clive Rose and Short, but a pair of boundaries against Rose and Jofra Archer allowed him to find some rhythm. When Mills entered the attack Weatherald hit him for a comfortable six over the very short leg-side boundary, and he withstood the post PowerPlay spin attack which has so often proved his downfall. When Archer returned to the attack he was hit into the stands, and with a sweep shot which evaded Archer’s dive at fine-leg and a well-run single he brought up his first fifty of the tournament. He continued to press forward, and soon the pair had added 171.

With a massive total in the offing, Archer stepped up. He delivered a series of perfect yorkers, and extracted reverse swing in the dying overs while accounting for all four wickets to fall. Weatherald was the first to depart, falling to Archer’s remarkable play of the day, a direct hit run out completed while the flamboyant import lay on his back. The next ball saw the end of Carey’s brilliant knock, as Archer fired a lightning quick yorker past his futile swing. Colin Ingram and Jonathan Wells struggled to gain traction against some accurate bowling, and eventually Wells was out lbw to a ball which cannoned into his foot. Then Jake Lehmann, the unfortunately mustachioed son of the Australian coach, was left spreadeagled on the ground after he was clean bowled. Archer had limited the damage, but without the support of his teammates the final tally of 187 looked formidable.

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Too good: Jofra Archer leaves Jake Lehmann both dismissed and embarrassed with a ripping delivery.

The Hurricanes didn’t start well enough, with Short and Alex Doolan struggling to get going early against some disciplined PowerPlay bowling. Billy Stanlake managed to build up some dots against Short, and a series of cleanly hit boundaries against Neser weren’t enough to get the red-hot opener going. The Hurricanes’ chase was beginning to flag before Short’s departure, as Doolan was unable to score faster than a run a ball and the asking rate climbed steadily. George Bailey came in, but he couldn’t provide the spark, and was clean bowled by an inch-perfect Peter Siddle yorker. With Short’s failure, the Hurricanes simply had no answer to the Strikers’ top-quality attack. They needed someone to step up, but it wasn’t clear who was capable.

Then Doolan got going, immediately after being hit in the helmet by a vicious Ben Laughlin bouncer. The first few boundaries hardly inspired fear, with a series of edges flying past Carey on their way to the fence. One might have said it was just Doolan swinging hard, as well he should with the required rate sitting at nearly 13 an over. Then he started to score some runs with genuine cricket shots, and things got a little testy. Before this game, Rashid Khan had not conceded more than 23 runs in a four-over spell. Doolan hit him for 20 in one over, launching him into the stands three times and bringing up his fifty in the process. Then he was dropped, as Siddle missed a straightforward chance and split the webbing on his finger. There was doubt as to whether the former Test star could bowl another over, and suddenly the Strikers were under a bit of pressure.


Having a crack: Alex Doolan swings hard during his unbeaten 70.

Ben McDermott added to that pressure by throwing his clean hitting into the mix. After bursting onto the scene last year with a blistering century in a record chase, McDermott has only been able to show flashes of his best form this time around. Twice he has launched balls onto the roof of Blundstone Arena, but he hadn’t been able to convert his starts into something meaningful. This was his chance, and he looked set to seize it with a series of boundaries, all hit as clean as a whistle. He had moved into the forties, and when Laughlin miscued with a low full toss he had a chance to bring up his fifty. Instead, he hit the errant ball straight to Wells, who showed composure which stood apart from the poor fielding exhibited in the rest of the match and held on. Doolan’s luck and power seemed to evaporate with the loss of his partner, and the Strikers were spared any more nervous moments by Siddle’s brilliant return to the attack and Neser’s calmly bowled last over. Just like that, the Hurricanes’ five-game winning streak was ended, and the Strikers re-established their credentials as a genuine title contender with a crucial win.

Top 5
1. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted with confidence from start to finish, and hit the ball cleanly on his way to a well-compiled hundred. Some of his flat sixes were remarkable shots, and he combined perfectly with Weatherald to put on 171 for the first wicket and all but bat the Hurricanes out of the game. He put in a tired effort with the gloves, but still managed to take a nice catch and pull off some neat work behind the stumps.
2. Alex Doolan (Hobart Hurricanes)
Doolan flicked a switch halfway through his innings, and began to get the score ticking over at a rapid rate with a combination of streaky edges and well-hit slog sweeps. He achieved the rare feat of hitting Rashid for three sixes in an over, and showed an aggressive side that had been missing in his previous innings. He batted through the innings, and will be happy with his half-century.
3. Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Weatherald came into the game in the middle of a form slump, but found his best form and combined with Carey to devastating effect. He was the slower of the two openers, but he managed to play some nice shots and displayed plenty of power against the quicks. His efforts at deep mid-wicket stood out on an otherwise dismal day for fielding.
4. Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
Archer can do plenty of things wrong, but barely a game passes without him providing a moment worthy of a place on the highlight reels. In this game, it was a direct hit while lying on the ground, and he followed it up with a top-class display of death bowling to limit the Strikers to 187. His ability to reverse swing the ball at extreme pace made him a nightmare to face at the end of the innings.
5. Michael Neser (Adelaide Strikers)
Neser’s night got off to a horror start as Short took an initial liking to him, but he recovered cleverly to remove the in-form opener and keep things tight with an impressive array of variations. He was unlucky not to remove Doolan, and bowled very well at the death to close out the win for the Strikers. He showed plenty of maturity, and his newfound consistency bodes well for the Strikers.