Stars battered, bruised and bottom after Sixers romp home

Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Sixers
Melbourne Stars 128-7 (Maxwell 28, Faulkner 28, Lyon 18-3, Abbott 35-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 129-2 (Maddinson 62, Hughes 49*) by 8 wickets at the MCG

For six seasons, the Melbourne Stars have been perennial BBL title challengers, never failing to make the finals and recovering from some sticky situations to scrape into the top four. They won’t make finals this time. Of course, this fact had been clear long before their emphatic defeat at the hands of the Sydney Sixers ended all mathematical possibility of a seventh straight finals appearance, but a convincing defeat in the bottom-of-the-table clash was a fitting way to seal a season that never got off the ground. As Nic Maddinson made the Stars’ dismal total look even worse with a remarkable display of power, it was hard not to be pessimistic about the home team’s future prospects.

The Stars’ woes, as ever, started with their batting. Luke Wright, for years the team’s dependable opening batsman, has had a torrid time of things in his seventh BBL campaign. On the pitch, he hasn’t converted a series of half-promising starts, and his season was interrupted after he slipped during a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Here, he was hit on the helmet twice by Ben Dwarshuis before throwing away his wicket with an ungainly slash. Kevin Pietersen is in his last season in the Big Bash, and is well into the twilight of his career. After making an aggressive start, he added to his tally of disappointing contributions as he targeted Nathan Lyon and picked out the man on the mid-wicket boundary. Through all of this, Ben Dunk had been attempting to build an innings at the other end. Dunk’s season has been the most disappointing of the lot. He came to the Stars after finishing last year as the tournament’s leading scorer, and his presence was meant to lift them to an elusive title. Instead, he has provided a run of outs which has left the Stars in a precarious position every time they have played. The run of outs continued, and he nicked one through to Peter Nevill the ball after Pietersen’s departure. Lyon’s two wickets had shattered the Stars’ increasingly fragile top-order, and they were reeling at 3/31 after the PowerPlay.

Embed from Getty Images
Celebration time: Peter Nevill tosses the ball up in the air to mark the removal of Glenn Maxwell.

Then Glenn Maxwell came to the crease, and continued an up-and-down season with an up-and-down innings. Maxwell has been the Stars’ form batsman, and showed his touch with a trio of sixes. If the Stars were going to go on and get some kind of total from this innings, they needed Maxwell to perform. Then, he threw it all away with a typically frustrating shot which rendered his contribution a disappointment. It was as if he was giving Nevill catching practice in running one straight to the keeper off Sean Abbott, and it left the Stars in big trouble. Now, the Stars needed Peter Handscomb. This time last season, Handscomb had made his Test and ODI debuts and seemed to have established himself as a fixture in the Australian middle order in just four Tests. Now, he is out of the Test team, does not look like returning in the immediate future, and can’t find a run at domestic level. He had struggled to get going in partnership with Maxwell, and departed the next over. Lyon tossed it up, and Handscomb chipped his former Test teammate’s regulation off-break straight to Jordan Silk at long-on. It was a meek dismissal, and it left the Stars sitting on a precarious 5/78.

They recovered to 128 off their 20 overs, with Evan Gulbis and James Faulkner scoring some valuable runs as the innings drew to a close, but neither could really score quickly enough to trouble the Sixers. When Carlos Brathwaite dismissed Faulkner and ran out Gulbis with the last two balls of the innings, the Stars had limped to a total that was never going to be enough. Joe Denly was out early, and the Stars bowled well in the PowerPlay, but they just didn’t have enough on the board. Then Maddinson stepped up, and the game was over in no time at all. He had come in after the departure of Denly, and his first ball was worked for a single. His second was to be bowled by the Stars’ captain, John Hastings, who had just brought himself into the attack for the last over of the PowerPlay. Hastings has had a rough season, never finding form with the ball and having no answers when the heat has been on in the field. Against the Brisbane Heat, he dropped Chris Lynn with the third ball of the innings, and watched as Lynn compiled an unbeaten half-century. Now, maybe, he could snag the wicket of Maddinson and give his side some hope.

Embed from Getty Images
The end: The Stars’ run of finals appearances comes to a comical end as Evan Gulbis (front) and Ben Dunk collide and the Sixers complete the winning run.

Hastings’ first ball was not in a bad area, landing on a full length and on a good enough line to give a new batsman like Maddinson some trouble. Instead, Maddinson catapulted it into the MCG stands. The ball sailed off his bat, and flew over the massive mid-wicket boundary. At this point, the Stars were done. The Sixers still needed 85 runs to win, but Maddinson’s six was so emphatic it was a perfect herald of the end of an era for the Stars. Maddinson continued his onslaught as the game went on. He was nearly caught by a colluding Daniel Worrall and Jackson Coleman, but Worrall’s foot was on the ground as he threw it back in for Coleman to complete the dismissal. It was Maddinson’s second six. His third was another remarkable shot, lofting Maxwell inside-out over cover with contemptuous ease. Then, on 30, he gave a chance. It was Handscomb who missed the stumping, as Maddinson advanced, couldn’t connect, and was only saved by the keeper’s fumble standing up to the stumps. Maddinson just kept going. Daniel Fallins, the young leg-spinner brought in as the Stars’ season wasted away, was smoked down the ground, and reverse swept as Maddinson brought up his fifty. Soon, he was gone, trying one big shot too many and allowing Dunk to make a catch. The contest had been gone long before that.

Daniel Hughes, having witnessed Maddinson’s battering of the beleaguered Stars attack from the other end, only had to knock around singles to complete the chase. He finished unbeaten and just one run short of his half-century, and the Stars’ season was officially finished with their future uncertain. It remains to be seen whether they can salvage anything from their last two games, or whether this whole campaign has just been a great big waste of time. This loss, against their only competition for the mantle of the worst team in the BBL, suggests that there is no quick fix for their many issues, and that redemption could be hard to come by.

Top 5
1. Nic Maddinson (Sydney Sixers)
Maddinson broke the chase open with a series of hard-hit boundaries, batting with the freedom of a man with nothing to lose and reaping extraordinary rewards. His slog sweep against Hastings was a top quality shot, and he hit the ball so nicely that no ground could hold him. He showed the kind of form the Sixers would have died for earlier in the season.
2. Nathan Lyon (Sydney Sixers)
Lyon came into the attack at key times and destroyed the Stars’ momentum, removing Pietersen and Dunk as the PowerPlay drew to a close and picking up the wicket of Handscomb to leave the Stars reeling. He was as economical as ever, and his final return of 3/18 off four overs played a big part in the Sixers’ comfortable victory.
3. Daniel Hughes (Sydney Sixers)
Hughes was unlucky to finish just one run short of his half-century, but performed admirably with the bat in shepherding the Sixers home. He stayed calm when the ball was moving about at the start of the innings, and his ability to turn over the strike in the middle overs ensured the Stars had no respite from Maddinson’s onslaught. He has gone up a gear since returning from injury.
4. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell was the only Stars player to play well, hitting the ball for a series of clean sixes and taking an excellent catch running back with the flight to remove Denly. His dismissal came at a key time, and was not his best shot, but the Stars’ struggles when he was not at the crease showed just how integral he has become to their success.
5. Sean Abbott (Sydney Sixers)
Abbott was the most expensive of the Sixers’ bowlers, but he made up for it by complementing Lyon’s pressure and accuracy with two wickets of his own. He removed Maxwell at a critical time in the game, and firmly turned momentum in the Sixers’ favour with his breakthroughs. He seems to have found his niche in the middle overs after a rocky start to the season.


Seventh time lucky for Sixers as Thunder lose their spark

Sydney Sixers vs Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder 156-6 (Green 49, Vince 34, Henriques 25-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 157-2 (Hughes 66*, Denly 43, Maddinson 28) by 8 wickets at the SCG

The Sydney Sixers needed two runs to win off the last ball to claim their first win of the season. It was being bowled by Chris Green, the off-spinner specialising in flat, non-spinning yorkers, to Moises Henriques, returning to the Sixers’ side after a four-game absence. The ball was full, but not quite full enough, as Henriques picked out a gap and ran the requisite two. The finish should have been an exciting one, but somehow both teams conspired to make it look somewhat mundane. Everything about the last ball seemed to be played in slow motion, from Gurinder Sandhu sauntering around the boundary to collect the ball to Daniel Hughes completing the winning runs with all the urgency of a Sunday stroll through the park. For a game which all but ended the Sydney Thunder’s faint finals hopes, the finish was as anticlimactic as it gets.

The Thunder were put in to bat first, and got off to a good start thanks to the efforts of James Vince. Vince, fresh from playing a series of good-looking but ultimately unfulfilling innings during England’s Ashes defeat, came in playing with unconventional footwork and characteristic style. His second ball went for six, as the imposing but not-so-dangerous Carlos Brathwaite was swatted over fine-leg. Then Nathan Lyon, fresh from terrorising Vince and his Ashes counterparts, entered the attack. Maybe it was the bite-sized nature of the T20 format that gave Vince some kind of Dutch courage against Lyon. Whatever the cause, his loft over cover against the off-spinner’s second ball was a nicer shot than any the English played against Lyon in a five-match Ashes series. Vince continued to push his innings along, moving around the crease and picking up a few more fours while he was at it.

Embed from Getty Images
Nice Garry: Nathan Lyon (left) celebrates after removing James Vince.

At the other end, his partners struggled to get going. Usman Khawaja, so fluent against the Perth Scorchers just two nights before, couldn’t start his innings on a tough wicket. It took him nine balls to get off the mark, and he had one run off his first 12 balls before he hit a big six to close out Lyon’s first over. He only added one more run before his painful stay was ended, with Brathwaite trapping him lbw and dabbing to mark the occasion. Shane Watson spent even less time at the crease before he dragged a short ball from Sean Abbott onto his stumps. When Vince looked to take Lyon on again and picked out the man on the boundary, the Thunder were in big trouble, and it only got worse when Callum Ferguson took on Henriques and failed.

Then Green stepped up. After receiving an unexpected promotion to number 5, he had ditched the fluoro-green covered bat he sported earlier in the tournament and found some surprising results as a pinch-hitter. As Arjun Nair kept things steady at the other end, Green swung hard with streaky but effective results. Every skied ball managed to fall safe, and soon Green was finding the fence with greater regularity. He pulled Abbott for six, and Jordan Silk’s attempt to take a great boundary catch failed as he stepped on the rope at the crucial juncture in the process. Nair departed to give Henriques another wicket, but Green hit the next ball for six over mid-wicket. Then, surprisingly, he was run out. After a direct hit failed to run him out, Green made the bizarre decision to steal a second run, with the ball lying a couple of metres from Henriques. He never had a chance, and fell just short of his fifty. The innings ended with some big hits from Jay Lenton and Ben Rohrer, but the target of 157 was not enough.

The Sixers looked a different team with bat in hand. Joe Denly, once England’s great limited-overs hope and now just another player on the County Cricket circuit with no English aspirations, came in after Jason Roy’s expected ascension to the English team and batted with more fluency than any Sixers player had shown all tournament. He had some luck first ball, edging a perfect Sandhu outswinger through the slips for four, and went on to play some beautifully timed shots. A flick off the bowling of Mitchell McClenaghan landed on the boundary rope for six, and when Sandhu dropped short in his second over Denly capitalised with a pair of hard-hit pull shots. Under Denly’s steam the Sixers had brought up their best opening partnership of the season in four overs, and they had flown to 0/54 at the conclusion of the PowerPlay.

Embed from Getty Images
Cool head: Daniel Hughes plays the steadying hand during the Sixers’ first win.

Then the Thunder’s spinners stepped up. Fawad Ahmed and Nair have been the only steady cog in the Thunder’s often creaky wheel this season, and after watching their fast bowlers take a battering at the hands of Denly they entered the attack and delivered instant results. The run rate had slowed steadily in the lead up to Denly’s dismissal, and when the Englishman looked to attack Ahmed and was bowled with his head nowhere near the ball it hardly came as a shock. As Ahmed and Nair continued to press on the Sixers’ early momentum seemed to have evaporated, but both Hughes and Maddinson kept their wickets intact and had soon begun to attack again. Maddinson, with a new, sickly blond haircut, was the initial aggressor, hitting Nair for a crisp slog sweep over mid-wicket, and Hughes took up the attack with a series of boundaries to pass his fifty and whittle down the equation to 30 runs off four overs.

Then Maddinson swung hard and provided a catch for Rohrer, and Henriques didn’t really get going. The boundaries dried up, and the Sixers were forced to deal in singles as they looked to complete the chase. McClenaghan and Green kept things tight at the end, talking with their forearms over their mouths to prevent in-game espionage (if the Sixers batsmen could actually read lips) and executing well at the death. It just wasn’t enough, and the Sixers finished off the chase more comfortably than the last ball finish suggests. The loss all but ends the Thunder’s season, while giving the Sixers the hope that they could glean something from an otherwise disappointing campaign.

Top 5
1. Daniel Hughes (Sydney Sixers)
Hughes anchored the chase with an unbeaten half-century, pacing his innings to perfection and keeping his composure until the end. He seemed slow at the start of the innings, but his steadiness and ability to keep his wicket as the Thunder began to find some momentum allowed the Sixers to get through the spinners largely unscathed and come through with the win.
2. Chris Green (Sydney Thunder)
Green top-scored for the Thunder with a streaky but effective pinch-hitting innings, and he kept things tight with the ball in the PowerPlay and at the death. He hit the ball powerfully on the leg-side, and his flat off-breaks proved difficult to hit. He showed plenty of calmness under pressure, and can take pride in his efforts even if he couldn’t get the Thunder over the line.
3. Joe Denly (Sydney Sixers)
Denly played with excellent timing and power in an aggressive innings, and put the Thunder under pressure from the start of the innings. He punished anything that was remotely short, and gave the Sixers an excellent base in conjunction with Hughes. After Roy’s travails at the top, his success was a breath of fresh air.
4. James Vince (Sydney Thunder)
Vince made batting look easy on a difficult pitch, playing some typically fluent shots and putting the Sixers under some early pressure. His six against Lyon was a top-class shot, and he showed enough to suggest that if he and Khawaja get going the results could be devastating. He didn’t have enough help, but performed well anyway.
5. Moises Henriques (Sydney Sixers)
Henriques returned to the side after a four-game lay-off and showed form with both bat and ball, taking a pair of big wickets in a tidy three over spell and closing the game out calmly without looking at his best. He took over the game as soon as he entered it, and prevented the Thunder from getting on a late run of wickets by keeping his head and playing a neat unbeaten innings.

Adelaide struck out by consistent Scorchers

Adelaide Strikers vs Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers 112 (Carey 44, Agar 19-3, Kelly 13-2, Bresnan 14-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 114-4 (Cartwright 47*, Agar 26*, Neser 18-2) by 6 wickets at Traeger Park

The Perth Scorchers needed 24 runs off 28 balls, as Hilton Cartwright looked to take Peter Siddle on over mid-wicket. The ball was hit solidly, but the boundary was just too long. The Adelaide Strikers, having made a good fist of defending their lacklustre total of 112, had the break they needed. Then chaos ensued. Siddle’s foot was over the line, and the well-set Cartwright was recalled to face the free hit. It was the pivotal moment in the match, as Siddle’s slightly errant delivery stride allowed Cartwright to hit a straight six and all but end the Strikers’ hopes of winning the top-of-the-table clash with a dramatic comeback. The win was sealed with 10 balls left, as Cartwright carved Michael Neser over cover to finish on an unbeaten 47.

Embed from Getty Images
Perfect landscape: The backdrop for Alice Springs’ first ever Big Bash game couldn’t have been nicer.

The stage was set for a big game as the first-placed Strikers faced off against the second-placed Scorchers in the first ever BBL game in Alice Springs. It was a battle of the best bowling attacks in the league, but the Strikers started well with the bat. Alex Carey and Jake Weatherald batted through the PowerPlay without losing a wicket, even if the going was tough against the ageless Mitchell Johnson and the too-often injured Joel Paris. When Carey hit a pair of sixes over mid-wicket to close out the sixth over the classy wicketkeeper-batsman looked to have found his touch, and the Scorchers seemed to be in trouble. Then Weatherald missed a sweep shot against the part-time spin of Will Bosisto and was out lbw, kicking off a collapse which derailed the Strikers’ innings.

Colin Ingram, standing in as captain, was the next man to fall, taking on Ashton Agar but finding Bosisto on the square leg boundary. Then Jonathan Wells was caught in no-man’s-land after looking for an adventurous single, and not even a fumble from Cameron Bancroft could save him as the Scorchers’ keeper made up for his slight hiccup by flying through the air to catch him short. Then Carey went too, chipping a catch to Paris off the bowling of Matthew Kelly to leave the Strikers in trouble at 4/80. The Scorchers had the opening they needed, and the rest of the Strikers batsmen barely raised a finger to halt the slide. Johnson’s brilliant one-handed diving catch diverted some attention from the nondescript shot Jake Lehmann played to get out, as Agar’s full toss was hit to short fine-leg off the back of the bat. Both Jono Dean and Neser holed out to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket, and the tail offered no resistance as Tim Bresnan and Paris cleaned them up.

Embed from Getty Images
Steady hand: Hilton Cartwright plays calmly during his match-winning innings.

The target of 113 shouldn’t have been too much of a test for the Scorchers, but they got off to a bad start in chasing it. Bosisto was lucky to survive his first ball after a fine edge went unnoticed by the umpire, but he had little impact as he picked out Peter Siddle at mid-on. Neser collected the second wicket as Michael Klinger found mid-off with a poorly-executed off-drive, and the Scorchers were suddenly under pressure on an oppressive Northern Territory summer’s day. Cameron Bancroft and Cartwright began to steady the ship, but when Bancroft went too hard against Siddle and stand-in skipper Ashton Turner was bowled by the irrepressible Rashid Khan’s unpickable googly, the Scorchers were 4/43 and a massive comeback was on the cards.

It was not to be, as Cartwright and Agar batted steadily to stem the flow of wickets while the scoreboard ticked over. More wind went out of the Strikers’ sails with every wicketless over, as they were methodically batted out of the game. The total was just not big enough, and when Cartwright hit Siddle for a pair of sixes either side of his very near miss the chase was all but complete. Neither Cartwright nor Agar gave another chance as the remaining runs were knocked off without event, and the Scorchers reclaimed their position at the top of the table with a win over their nearest rivals. It was a typical Scorchers-style victory, based around a dominant bowling performance and raising some uncomfortable questions about the Strikers batting in the absence of Travis Head. The Strikers just didn’t score enough runs, and will need to turn it around before entering the finals.

Top 5
1. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was in top form with both bat and ball, contributing to the Strikers’ collapse with a series of middle-overs wickets and closing out a tense chase with a mature innings alongside Cartwright. He appears to have developed greater all-round consistency, and his ability to keep a cool head under pressure has become one of his strengths.
2. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright played the kind of middle-order innings the Scorchers needed, showing plenty of power and providing a steady hand throughout a tense run chase. He started slowly, but played all the bowlers with confidence and ended the match just short of his half-century. He took a pair of nice catches in the first innings of a strong performance.
3. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid was the most potent member of the Strikers’ attack, forcing the Scorchers into a defensive mindset with his ability to turn the ball both ways and removing Turner with a ripping googly all the same. He threatened the batsmen with every ball he bowled in his most economical performance yet, and continues to go from strength to strength.
4. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey was the only batsman who made batting look easy on a difficult wicket, breezing to 44 with a series of nice shots. His pair of sixes against the otherwise tidy Paris were particularly well-struck, and he was the only Strikers player to make a significant contribution with bat in hand. He was as tidy as ever with the gloves, making no errors.
5. Matthew Kelly (Perth Scorchers)
Kelly took the big wicket of Carey and picked up where he left off following an impressive debut against the Thunder. He showed plenty of maturity to keep things tight after entering the attack with the Scorchers in a strong position, and he looks like another solid prospect from the Scorchers production line.

Thunder hold on against Scorchers onslaught

Sydney Thunder vs Perth Scorchers
Sydney Thunder 175-4 (Khawaja 85, Ferguson 25, Bresnan 38-2) def Perth Scorchers 172-4 (Bancroft 75*, Cartwright 65*) by 3 runs at Spotless Stadium

The Perth Scorchers required 5 runs to win off 1 ball, with Hilton Cartwright on strike. The Australian international had already taken 19 runs from Mitchell McClenaghan’s last over. The Sydney Thunder, who had ridden the wave of Usman Khawaja’s brilliant form to dominate from start to finish, were now struggling to close out a victory which should have been sealed long before the last over. There was a delay as Cartwright had his bat fixed, and the tension continued to build. After what seemed like an eternity, McClenaghan bowled. Cartwright could only manage a single. The Thunder had survived, and the Scorchers, the kings of the comeback, had fallen agonisingly short.

The Scorchers had done well to get so close. They had dug themselves out of plenty of garden-variety holes in the past, but in this game they had fallen into an abyss. Their pursuit of the Thunder’s first innings 175 couldn’t have started in a worse fashion. Will Bosisto showed some early aggression, but was sent back when he hit a short leg-side ball straight to Fawad Ahmed. Michael Klinger tried to take on mid-off, but couldn’t get enough power and was caught. Ashton Turner, coming into the game in brilliant form, was trapped in front by a Gurinder Sandhu yorker. Adam Voges was clean bowled when Ahmed entered the attack, leaving the Scorchers 4/35 and in dire straits. At this point, with the game all but over, Cartwright walked out to the wicket to join Cameron Bancroft.

Embed from Getty Images
Fightback: Hilton Cartwright looks to go big during his unbeaten 65.

Bancroft had come in at number 3, and had watched the carnage unfold from the other end in his first BBL game of an up-and-down season. He was the one member of the Australian side who never really performed during the Ashes, and spent the last part of the series subjected to queries about his technique, his temperament and, in general, his batting ability. Now, he had a chance to show his class, and he took it well. He played maturely as he looked to steady the ship, but started to find the fence with more regularity as the innings progressed. That was when he began to give chances, with Khawaja dropping him while running back at cover and Ben Rohrer putting down a very high top edge. He responded to the latter dropping by bringing up fifty with a four and a six, and gave some indication that the miss might be a costly one. He continued to find the fence and play some nice shots in the final overs, but by then Cartwright had taken over.

Cartwright came in with the Scorchers looking gone for all money. Voges had just been bowled by a ripping wrong-un from Ahmed, and it appeared as if they would face a struggle to get to 100, let alone 175. He started slowly, struggling to find much timing and dealing almost exclusively in singles. Jay Lenton missed a chance to stump him when he was on 7, but it didn’t look particularly costly. He showed glimpses of his best, such as a big six to the long boundary, but glimpses were not nearly enough against the tidy spin of Ahmed and Arjun Nair. Then, with 74 runs needed off 30 balls, he started to find the fence. Chris Green was hit for a four and a six, and when Cartwright was dropped later in the over it looked like a very bad error. He brought up fifty with the first ball of the last over, and followed it up by hitting the next ball into the Spotless Stadium roof. He continued to hit twos, and he just needed one more boundary to seal a remarkable comeback. He couldn’t get one away, and the Thunder could finally relax after a far-from-comfortable finish.

Embed from Getty Images
Big jump: Will Bosisto goes aerial to deny Ben Rohrer a six with some great fielding.

Their first innings total was underpinned by Khawaja’s stunning 85. When Khawaja is at his most fluent it feels like the game situation is irrelevant, and the scoreboard just doesn’t matter. He wasn’t quite at that level on his return to the BBL from a fighting 171 against the English, but he raced to his half-century with remarkable ease, playing some beautiful strokes along the way. Early on, the quick bowlers were pulled and flicked, and Voges’ decision to use the part-time off-spin of Bosisto backfired as the Test number 3 caressed him around the ground with contempt. When Shane Watson departed after playing a big shot and getting caught on the boundary, Khawaja responded by launching Tim Bresnan for a pair of sixes and hitting Ashton Agar for a towering six over mid-on. He continued to make batting look ridiculously simple, hitting every ball out of the middle of the bat as he cruised towards what seemed an inevitable century. Then it was over, an uncharacteristic slash at a wide ball from Agar presenting Klinger with a simple catch.

At the other end, his partners were made to look sub-par as they struggled to match his input. Kurtis Patterson hit a few boundaries, but never looked like getting going before edging one to Bancroft off the impressive bowling of debutant Matt Kelly. Watson put away the bad balls well, but his big shot against Bresnan brought about his downfall, and Callum Ferguson never threatened to set the world alight before he drilled a pull shot straight to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket. Rohrer hit a couple of nice shots, but some athletic fielding from Bosisto in saving a six ensured that a big straight hit in the last over was his only boundary. Despite the unsatisfying end, 175 looked like a very good score when the second innings began. In the end, thanks to the Scorchers’ never-say-die attitude, it was only just enough.

Top 5
1. Usman Khawaja (Sydney Thunder)
Khawaja was at his fluent best, not missing a beat in transitioning from Test cricket to the BBL and hitting graceful boundaries all over the ground. He looked a cut above the rest, and his return to the ranks bodes very well for the rest of the Thunder’s season, provided he is not given an ODI call-up.
2. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft was not in the best of form throughout the Ashes, but his hard-fought 75 held the Scorchers’ innings together just as it looked like they were going to be rolled. He hit the ball powerfully through mid-on, and showed great fight to nearly get his side over the line. He kept solidly, and benefitted from being given a bit more freedom to play his shots.
3. Gurinder Sandhu (Sydney Thunder)
Sandhu was the pick of the Thunder’s bowlers, swinging the ball in the PowerPlay to put the Scorchers under pressure and showing great composure in conceding just 7 runs off the nineteenth over of the innings. He was hard to get away despite his lack of pace, and bowled with metronomic accuracy and plenty of intelligence.
4. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright started slowly, but played with more fight than most of his teammates and found his power at the end of the innings. His composure and controlled hitting nearly got the Scorchers over the line, and he caused some nervous moments for the home crowd in taking 20 from the last over. His straight six against McClenaghan in the final over hit the roof, showing just how hard he can hit the ball.
5. Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder)
Ahmed turned the ball both ways, and his entrance into the attack led to a sharp drop in the run rate. He bowled Voges with a ripping wrong-un, and he was unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Cartwright with a similar delivery. His variety was excellent, and he executed well whenever he was given the ball.

Short destroys Heat as Hurricanes limp over the line

Brisbane Heat vs Hobart Hurricanes
Hobart Hurricanes 179-4 (Short 122*, Cutting 27-2, Steketee 51-2) def Brisbane Heat 176-8 (Heazlett 45, McCullum 33, Ross 27, Peirson 26*, Boyce 23-2) by 3 runs at the Gabba

The ball flew high into the air off D’Arcy Short’s bat. Short was on 60 at the time and looking ominous as he continued his brilliant 2018 form, but this ball presented the Brisbane Heat with a chance to remove him. It was set to land inside the ring as Joe Burns positioned himself under the catch, looking slightly tentative. It broke through his hands and fell to the Gabba turf, as Alex Ross watched on in close proximity. Had he taken it, the Heat probably would have come away with the win. He didn’t take it, and Short went on to 122 not out, single-handedly taking the Hobart Hurricanes to a fourth straight victory which puts them on the edge of the top four.

Short’s innings, the highest in the history of the BBL, was the story of the Hurricanes’ batting effort. He found a perfect symbiosis of patience and explosivity, and every shot was played with poise, power and a still head. For large parts of the innings he was content to knock around singles, but when the Heat were starting to get on top he would knock them back with a flurry of boundaries. The first such burst came as the Hurricanes appeared to be heading for an unsatisfactory PowerPlay. He stepped in with a series of cuts and pulls when Mark Steketee and Brendan Doggett dropped short. He did it again through the middle just after his reprieve, belting Steketee for a massive six through mid-wicket and hitting Ben Cutting for a series of fours. Now, for the third time in four innings, he found himself in the nineties, once again tantalisingly close in his pursuit of the elusive ton. It had been a stumbling block in the past, but when Doggett’s half-volley was launched over the head of long-on into the stands, the stumbling block had been overcome. His celebration showed no sign of relief, only a desire to get back to business. When Steketee dropped short in the last over, he was punished, as Short brought up a record BBL score with a hat-trick of sixes to the massive leg-side boundary.

Embed from Getty Images
At long last: D’Arcy Short raises his bat after bringing up the first century of the season.

If only his partners had been half as good. While Short carted the bowlers for 122, his teammates could only flounder around hitting singles at the other end. Alex Doolan never found form before he edged one from Steketee onto his stumps. Matthew Wade’s innings presented the Heat with a litany of chances from the moment he inside edged his second ball past the stumps and a diving Jimmy Peirson for four. Over the course of a streaky innings he was dropped by Yasir Shah and two catches fell agonisingly short of fielders before he holed out against a short, leg-side ball from Cutting. Ben McDermott hit a towering six against the bowling of Yasir, but couldn’t do anything else before he picked out Ross, and George Bailey looked to be in horrible form as he occupied the crease in the final overs. The final tally of 179 was big, but it was hard to escape the feeling that they should have done a lot better.

The run chase had a bit of everything: a fast start and a subsequent recovery that looked to have extinguished the Heat’s hopes, a dose of controversy emanating from a shocking umpiring decision and a rapid finish provoked by some horrible death bowling. Sam Heazlett and Brendon McCullum got the Heat off to a flying start, belting Simon Milenko and Clive Rose to all parts on their way to a PowerPlay total of 0/62. The Heat looked unstoppable, and when Tymal Mills put down a straightforward catch as McCullum helped one from Jofra Archer straight down his throat at short fine-leg he looked to have given the Heat captain a very costly reprieve. Then came the recovery. It was started by Cameron Boyce, who removed McCullum just after the conclusion of the PowerPlay, and continued by the very occasional left-arm leg-spin of Short. Short made his only mistake of the night by dropping Burns, but it didn’t matter too much as Burns was gone shortly afterwards, and when the centurion trapped Heazlett plumb in front the Heat were in serious trouble.

At this point Archer stepped up to deliver a moment of skill and swagger which appeared to snuff out the Heat’s hopes. With the Heat needing nearly 12 an over, Cutting looked to be the only man capable of scoring quickly enough to get them over the line, even with Ross showing good form at the other end. Archer’s first ball to Cutting was a full, 147 kph thunderbolt, and it was hit back with equal vigour. The ball flew off Cutting’s bat, and looked destined for the boundary. The umpire was ducking out of the way. Archer simply stuck his right hand into the air and came down with the ball. It was as if the Gabba froze, first in confusion, then in disbelief. Archer was merely staring Cutting down, before nonchalantly turning on his heel and tossing it back over his shoulder. Cutting could only stand there, scarcely believing what had just transpired.

Embed from Getty Images
Controversial: Alex Ross (right) slides to make his ground. He was given out for obstructing the field.

Then came the controversy. With 49 runs required from 19 balls, the Heat were not in a great position. Ross, however, was still there, and looking in fairly good touch. If they were to pull off an unlikely heist, it felt like he would need to be there to do it. An otherwise innocuous throw from the boundary ricocheted off Ross’ body onto the stumps. The umpires went upstairs to look at the run out chance (he was clearly in) but as they continued to look at replays for much longer than they should have it was clear that something was amiss. It was like watching a car crash unfold in slow motion. The longer they looked, the clearer it was that a nonsensical verdict of obstructing the field was coming, but nothing could be done to stop it. The letter of the law, and its practical application, was completely ignored, and Ross was sent on his way. It was a howler, plain and simple, and it left the Heat in dire straights.

Then the Hurricanes put on a baffling display that nearly cost them the game. Rose had been withheld from the attack until the eighteenth over, but now Bailey seemed to decide that the game was safely in their hands. He was hit for two sixes, with Jimmy Peirson denting the sightscreen with a particularly forceful blow. Then Archer decided to come around the wicket and was flayed by Peirson through a poorly thought-out field, and they had put themselves back under the pump. The Heat needed 13 from the last over. It was chaos. Doggett was forced to make two spectacular dives to save himself from being run out, and after a series of bizarre events the Heat needed four off the last ball, with the well-set Peirson having denied himself the strike due to some odd running between the wickets. Not to be outdone, Dan Christian put one straight in the slot, but Doggett was not good enough to get it away. The Hurricanes came out of a night that had it all with a big win, and the Heat were left to rue what might have been.

Top 5
1. D’Arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
Short had been threatening to bring up the season’s first century ever since 2018 began, and he finally achieved the feat with a quality display of controlled power. His series of sixes at the end of the innings lifted the Hurricanes to 179, and he played a big role in the defence with his tidy left-arm leg-spin. It was a perfect night for him, and continues his push for international honours.
2. Cameron Boyce (Hobart Hurricanes)
Boyce turned the game around for the Hurricanes by removing McCullum and Burns after the Heat dominated the PowerPlay, and keeping things tight with his accurate leg-spin. His combination with Short through the middle overs took away the Heat’s momentum, and his continued improvement as the season has gone on bodes well for the Hurricanes.
3. Sam Heazlett (Brisbane Heat)
Heazlett fell just short of a half-century, but his ability to hit the ball cleanly on both sides of the wicket allowed the Heat to get off to a fast start and give the Hurricanes a massive early scare. He was slightly bogged down when the spinners entered the game, but he still hit a classy six off Boyce towards the end of his innings and showed promise as a replacement for Lynn at the top of the order.
4. Brendon McCullum (Brisbane Heat)
McCullum was as aggressive as ever in starting his innings, putting all the bowlers under immense pressure as the Heat took full advantage of the PowerPlay. He hit some nice boundaries against all the bowlers, and looked ready to take the game away from the Hurricanes before his untimely dismissal.
5. James Peirson (Brisbane Heat)
Peirson has gone from strength to strength since dropping down the order to number 7, and the powerful keeper-batsman nearly stole the game from the Hurricanes with an clinical display of power in the final overs. His six against Rose was hit so powerfully it left a hole in the sightscreen, and had he been on strike at the end the outcome may have been different.

Stars fail to shine as Strikers cruise home

Adelaide Strikers vs Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 151-6 (Maxwell 60, Stoinis 39) lost to Adelaide Strikers 152-2 (Carey 59*, Head 53) by 8 wickets at Adelaide Oval

Adam Zampa pitched the ball up, and Alex Carey slog swept it hard and flat. The ball just kept travelling, as it flew into the gap on the leg-side. It landed metres outside the boundary, and, just like that, it was over. The Adelaide Strikers had won with little fuss, and left the Melbourne Stars wondering what they can salvage from a campaign that is quickly becoming a smouldering wreck. In this game, they benefitted from Marcus Stoinis’ power and an excellent innings from Glenn Maxwell. They bowled well as a team. None of it mattered.

The Stars have tried everything to halt their slide. They have been berated, told to go about their business differently, and there have been plenty of players dropped. None of it has worked. Not for the first time, an early collapse was at the heart of their defeat. Their problems started before the toss, with Luke Wright absent after a late-night trip to the bathroom went wrong and he did his back. When the PowerPlay was finished with the Stars at 3/34, makeshift opener Stoinis was the last man remaining from a top order which fell down like a house of cards.

Embed from Getty Images
Big hitting: Glenn Maxwell swings hard during his 60.

Ben Dunk was the first to depart, attempting to loft one over Ben Laughlin at mid-off and failing in his efforts. Then Kevin Pietersen, fresh from announcing that this BBL season will be his last, played an innings which was short on substance but not in entertainment value. He flicked Billy Stanlake to the boundary with one leg in the air, and then survived some terrible running between the wickets only to get himself bowled for 5. His attempt to give himself room and waft at a straight ball gave the impression that Pietersen has given up. Peter Handscomb, wearing a shirt upon which his name was misspelled, faced only five balls before skying a pull shot against Ben Laughlin with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

Stoinis had been motoring along nicely at the other end, and when Stanlake returned for the seventh over he played him with ease and brutal power. He had flown to 39 out of his side’s meagre 51. Then he departed too, taking on the consistent Rashid Khan and picking out the man on the boundary perfectly. At this point Maxwell, who had entered with Handscomb’s dismissal, took over. In conjunction with Seb Gotch he played a mature innings, giving the Stars something to defend. He began his innings with an early boundary, a cut shot through backward point for four. For some reason, the Strikers never put anyone on the point boundary, as he continued to score through point and third man with alarming frequency. Michael Neser was cut through a miniscule gap in the in-field and slapped for six over cover. Peter Siddle was run down to third man. Rashid was reverse swept over the two fielders placed on the ring. Stanlake was the victim of a thick outside edge which ran unimpeded to the boundary. Maxwell brought up fifty with three more runs through third man, but didn’t last much longer. With his departure, the innings fizzled out. John Hastings hit a big six off the penultimate ball of the innings, but 6/151 was an underwhelming return.

The Strikers’ pursuit was a steady one, as the hosts never looked threatened by the Stars’ bowling attack. Early progress was slow, but Jake Weatherald and Carey had soon begun to find the boundary, with Carey’s series of drives particularly easy on the eye. Weatherald departed just after the PowerPlay as he sought to sweep Maxwell and fell victim to a sharp stumping from Handscomb. At this point Travis Head came to the crease to join Carey, and the Stars were methodically batted out of the game.

Embed from Getty Images
Balance: Travis Head hits the ball while standing on one leg during his brilliant 53.

Head’s innings was perfectly paced from start to finish, and ended any faint hopes the Stars may have had. He started slowly, and initially the boundaries dried up as Carey also struggled to find the rope. As his innings moved forward, however, he was able to find the fence with greater regularity. He took a liking to Stoinis, hitting a crisp back foot drive against his medium pace and following it up with his first six, which hit Hastings’ rock hard hands at deep mid-wicket and flew over the boundary. As the target came within striking distance, he began to accelerate rapidly. He hit Scott Boland through a tiny gap between cover and mid-off while balancing on one leg and advancing down the wicket, and proceeded to hit another flat pull shot for six over mid-wicket. Stoinis returned, and Head hit a six over long-off and an edged four through third man to bring up 50. He was out next ball, but he had batted the Stars out of the game.

The rest of the chase was completed fairly comfortably, as Carey reached his half-century and Colin Ingram came in and looked to close out the win as quickly as possible. Like Head, he used Stoinis as a punching bag with a massive six and a well-hit four, assuaging any late nerves the Strikers may have had. As the game wound down he was dropped twice, but this was more a postscript which symbolised the Stars’ many issues than a decisive moment in a contest that was reaching an inevitable end. The Strikers found things too easy against a Stars side containing too many passengers, and with this loss all but confirming the Stars’ non-presence in the finals they will have a lot of thinking to do about how they are going to take something out of their catastrophic campaign.

Top 5
1. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head’s innings was perfectly paced and set up the chase brilliantly for the Strikers. He led from the front in compiling a half-century, and some of the boundaries he hit towards the end of his innings were ridiculous shots. He showed a maturity which bodes well for the future, and continued to show his well-honed captaincy skills.
2. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell played a very nice innings to give the Stars a fighting chance, and bowled well to pick up the big wicket of Weatherald. He was especially prolific through point, and while he showed some of his inventiveness he seems to have mostly shelved his unorthodox style in favour of a more determined approach. Time will tell whether it works, but the early results are promising if not as destructive.
3. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted through the innings and was the perfect counterpoint to Head’s aggression, keeping everything going steadily and batting very maturely as the Strikers ran down the target. His glovework was as steady as ever, and his consistent presence with both bat and gloves has allowed the Strikers to move towards the upper reaches of the table.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid’s quality is highlighted by the fact that he was the best bowler on either side despite putting in his worst performance of the season so far. For the first time this season he failed to take two wickets in the match, but his removal of Stoinis and ability to beat the in-form Maxwell on both sides of the bat meant that he was still as dangerous as ever. He barely bowls a bad ball.
5. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was the only member of the Stars’ top-order who stood up, and along with Maxwell provided the base for their total. He hit the ball well and looked completely at home while others faltered, and although he was dismissed when he looked set for a destructive half-century he can take pride in his performance. He struggled with the ball, but picked up the wicket of Head and should have had Ingram with the last ball of his spell.

Turner stars to take Scorchers home

Perth Scorchers vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 185-3 (White 68*, Cooper 57, Harris 48, Tye 36-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 186-5 (Turner 70, Willey 55, Agar 26*) by 5 wickets at WACA Ground

For over 20 years, Brad Hogg had been a hero for crowds at the WACA, whether playing for Western Australia or the Perth Scorchers. Now, playing in the colours of the Melbourne Renegades, he was taking an emotional last bow in his final game at the ground before the Scorchers’ relocation to their flash new stadium. Things were going well for Hogg. He had removed Hilton Cartwright with an excellent delivery, and the Renegades were on top. The ageless 46-year-old proved he was still the fan favourite, signing autographs for the parochial home fans. It was amidst this backdrop of adulation and autograph opportunities that he received a chance to all but end the game.

Ashton Turner was on 16, and facing Jack Wildermuth. He slashed too hard at the ball, and it was sliced straight to Hogg at third man. He ran in, attempted to set himself, and made a meal of the straightforward catch, as the Scorchers’ most threatening batsman survived. Hogg, for perhaps the last time at the WACA, received a standing ovation and acknowledged it, arms outstretched and facing the fans with a wide grin, like the born showman he is. If only he had known how costly his gaffe would be.

Embed from Getty Images
Recovery: Ashton Turner hits out during his match-winning 70.

Turner gave some indication a few balls later, effortlessly launching Wildermuth for six over long-on. Soon he was in unstoppable touch. Wildermuth was ramped twice in successive balls, and carved clinically through point. At the other end, Hogg came on to repair the damage, and David Willey hit him for a pair of boundaries to bring up a fairly slow but important half-century. Kane Richardson was edged down to third man for four. Even the departure of Willey, who looked to go big against Richardson but could only find the man, could not halt the Scorchers’ momentum.

The time had come for Hogg to bowl his last ball at the WACA. Ashton Agar had joined Turner in finding the fence to put the Renegades under pressure, but Hogg had proved up to the test. Three runs had come off his first five balls, and the Scorchers needed a boundary. Turner, now on 58 after his reprieve on 16, received a high full toss, and couldn’t have put it away any better. To add insult to injury, a no-ball was called, and the free hit received similar treatment. Hogg had smiled all day, even when dropping a key catch and getting hit around. He had looked like he was having fun. Now, having been hit for 13 off his last legitimate delivery at his old home ground, the anguish was writ large on his face even as he sought to continue his bubbly charade. The rest of the chase was far from smooth, with Turner and Adam Voges run out before Agar took the Scorchers over the line, but the Renegades were just not good enough as the massive target was run down.

Embed from Getty Images
Innovation: Tom Cooper plays one of his ramp shots during his crafty half-century.

The Scorchers only had themselves to blame for needing so many runs in the first place. Aaron Finch was dropped second ball, and although he was dismissed with the next delivery he faced, from the in-form Mitchell Johnson, it was a sign of what was to come. Marcus Harris played some nice shots, but gave plenty of chances the Scorchers could not take, and they allowed him to move to 48 before he finally picked out Turner at point. At this point, the Scorchers began to tighten the net. Tom Cooper couldn’t get going, even after being given a life by Josh Inglis’ terrible effort at a high catch. He was on one at the time.

With four overs to go, the Renegades were 2/122. Then Cooper, who had been subdued for his whole innings, got going against some very poor death bowling from Jhye Richardson. Richardson’s bowling has gone downhill ever since his selection for the Australian ODI team, and he bowled with no plan as Cooper used his pace against him expertly. The Dutch international hit the ball all around the field and toyed with the bowlers, and the run rate skyrocketed. At the other end, Cameron White was at his dependable best, and as the Scorchers fell apart he capitalised as well. Both brought up half-centuries, and the tally of 63 runs from the last four overs was an indictment on the Scorchers’ death bowlers. When Klinger was dismissed by Mohammad Nabi for a golden duck and Willey struggled to get going, the hosts looked set for a second straight loss. But for Turner’s intervention and Hogg’s costly drop, a second straight loss would have come to pass, in a game which perfectly summed up the contradictory feelings of fragility and invincibility which have surrounded the Scorchers’ performances this season.

Top 5
1. Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
Turner took the game by the scruff of the neck with a dominant innings, launching plenty of sixes and running brilliantly to score 70 at over two runs a ball. He batted deep into the innings and ensured that by the time he was dismissed the Scorchers were firmly in the box seat. He looks to be in excellent form, and ready for the rest of the tournament.
2. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White anchored the Renegades’ innings with another big contribution, batting as if he was never going to get out and keeping his coolness even when the Scorchers piled on the pressure in the middle overs. He began to find the boundary towards the end of the innings, and allowed the Renegades to set a formidable target.
3. Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper accelerated rapidly to raise a lightning half-century following a slow start, and closed the innings out with power and innovation. He benefitted from a horrendous missed catch from Inglis, but he looks to have found good touch following a pair of games in which he was not called upon to bat.
4. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey bowled lucklessly as a couple of catches went down off his bowling, but he excelled with bat in hand in compiling a solid half-century. He hit some nice shots, and his form improved greatly as the innings progressed. His ability to hang around following the early departure of Klinger gave the Scorchers the platform they needed to win the game.
5. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was not as tight as he has been in previous games, but he was still fairly solid with ball in hand and closed out the game well with the bat. He hit some very nice sixes to alleviate any late pressure, and sealed the win with a very well struck cover drive. He showed excellent composure, and looks to have found some good form with the bat.