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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Temperamental Sixers fall short as Strikers march on

Sydney Sixers vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 167-3 (Carey 83*, Wells 33*, Head 29, Dwarshuis 41-2) def Sydney Sixers 161-8 (Silk 50, O’Keefe 28, Botha 25, Rashid 22-2, Stanlake 31-2, Laughlin 39-2, Neser 42-2) by 6 runs at SCG

The Adelaide Strikers came close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, before seemingly deciding that victory was the preferred option and closing the game out for their second win of the season. It was a pair of swashbuckling innings from Steve O’Keefe and Ben Dwarshuis which threatened to get the Sydney Sixers over the line, as luck and the odd powerful shot combined to give the visitors a major late scare. 18 came off Ben Laughlin’s 19th over, and when Michael Neser, defending 16 off the last over, saw his first ball hit over mid-wicket for six, the comeback was well and truly on. It was not to be, as Neser regained his composure and sent down a series of perfect yorkers to end the match and, finally, seal a well-deserved Strikers win.

The Strikers began inauspiciously, with Jake Weatherald skying one from Dwarshuis with the first ball of the over and departing for a duck. Alex Carey and Travis Head initially steadied and then struck out, with Carey hitting a pair of towering sixes off Dwarshuis and Head hitting a wide ball for six over cover. Both timed the ball well, with Head especially prolific through point, and soon the Strikers seemed to be in a very strong position. Then Head got out. Johan Botha, standing in as captain in the absence of Moises Henriques, made the breakthrough, slipping one of his quick off breaks through Head’s sweep shot and allowing Sam Billings to whip off the bails.

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Full flow: Alex Carey hits through the off-side during his classy 83 not out.

Meanwhile, Carey continued to march on. Colin Ingram again looked out of sorts before top edging a pull shot, but Carey looked utterly unfazed as he built his innings. He hit a pair of well-timed boundaries against Will Somerville and a nice cut shot against Dwarshuis, and brought up his 50 in the 14th over. He was still there when the innings concluded on 3/167, finishing on 83 not out with some nice late overs hitting even as he tired. It was Jonathan Wells who provided the final flourish, however, seizing the initiative with some clean hitting and inventiveness. A ramp shot off Abbott ran to the boundary as Wells didn’t even bother to look back, and the highlight came when he belted Dwarshuis onto the roof with the penultimate ball of the innings. He finished with an unbeaten 33, as the Strikers hit 17 off the last over to finish on a high.

The Sixers began well enough, but the wheels soon started to fall off. Jason Roy started with some well hit boundaries, but Daniel Hughes was out early at the other end, falling for a well-executed trap and picking out the strategically placed Wells. Nic Maddinson fell victim to an excellent catch, with Carey continuing a brilliant game by sticking out a glove and holding on, and when Roy went for a big shot and saw himself caught by Jake Lehmann the Sixers were in dire straits as they ended the PowerPlay on 3/42.

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Air swing: Johan Botha has a look of immense concentration as he attempts a switch hit, but fails to make contact all the same.

At this point Jordan Silk came into his own. Brought into the side to replace Henriques, he looked fluent from the moment he came to the crease, hitting some very neat strokes through the off side to get going. He was unflustered when Rashid Khan uprooted Billings’ off stump, and joined with Botha in a partnership which stemmed the flow of wickets even while they struggled to make headway. Soon Silk had hit his stride, and cover drives off Laughlin and Head allowed him to bring up a brisk half-century as the Sixers began to mount a charge. Then it was over. Rashid stepped up again, returning to the attack and cramping Silk for room with a clumsy cut shot clipping the top of off stump. His wicket looked to have killed the game off once and for all. O’Keefe ensured it was still barely alive.

With Silk’s departure, O’Keefe came to the crease. He had been conspicuously absent from the bowling crease, but now seized his opportunity to impact the game. He swung hard from the start, with 17 coming from Neser’s third over as an edge and a well hit pull shot went to the boundary. Botha fell in the next over, and when Sean Abbott gave himself room and missed the ball completely as it cannoned into middle stump, the game looked completely over. In the end, not even the lusty swings of Dwarshuis and O’Keefe could save the Sixers, as Neser’s calm finished ensured they fell to a third consecutive defeat. The Strikers reinforced their status as title hopefuls, while the Sixers finals hopes are hanging by a thread, as disappointing top-order efforts continue to plague their season.

Top 5
1. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey was rock solid throughout the Strikers’ innings, providing a perfect foundation and hitting some very nice shots on his way to a solid 83 not out. He combined particularly well with Head and Wells, and his keeping was as sharp as ever. Capped his night off with a brilliant one-handed catch in a deserved man-of-the-match performance.
2. Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)
Silk gave the Sixers an outside chance with his calmness under pressure, despite being the least-heralded member of the Sixers’ theoretically strong batting line-up. He played the ball beautifully through the off-side, and finished with a very nice 50. He is unlikely to be dropped now, even when Henriques returns to the side.
3. Jonathan Wells (Adelaide Strikers)
Wells gave the Strikers the late impetus they needed to post a strong total, improvising nicely but also displaying tremendous power. His hit onto the roof of the Bill O’Reilly Stand was a remarkable one, and capped off an excellent innings.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid showed his class once again, starting slowly but building into it as his spell progressed. He removed Billings just as he was looking to attack, and his dismissal of Silk seemed to seal the game for the Strikers. He mixed things up well, and barely bowled a bad ball in four overs.
5. Ben Dwarshuis (Sydney Sixers)
Dwarshuis grabbed a pair of important wickets, and generally bowled well even if he was on the end of some extraordinary hitting. His batting at the end of the innings gave the Sixers a fighting chance, as he hit a pair of big sixes and combined fearlessly with O’Keefe to give the Strikers a massive scare.

Thunder wilt against dominant Strikers

Adelaide Strikers vs Sydney Thunder
Adelaide Strikers 163-6 (Carey 44, Head 36, Nair 36-3, McClenaghan 37-2) def Sydney Thunder 110 (Patterson 48, Laughlin 26-4, Siddle 6-2, Rashid 22-2) by 53 runs at Adelaide Oval

It was one of the best balls of the Big Bash’s early stages that kick-started the collapse. Rashid Khan had already removed Ryan Gibson with the first ball of his third over, catching the outside edge with an excellent leg-break and allowing Alex Carey to take a good catch. The Sydney Thunder were 3/69, and still had a chance of running down the Adelaide Strikers’ below par total of 163. Then Rashid stepped up again. His third ball was one of his googlies, and slid past Ben Rohrer’s helpless outside edge to clip the top of off stump. At 93 kph, it was too much for Rohrer, who didn’t pick it as the Afghan prodigy decisively swung momentum the way of the Strikers. The Thunder never recovered.

The Strikers had started well against the Thunder’s quick bowlers, with Carey and new captain Travis Head playing some excellent shots after Jake Weatherald was dismissed early. Carey was in particularly fluent form, driving with perfect timing and taking the lead as the Strikers finished the PowerPlay with a commanding 1/54. The boundaries kept flowing as the spinners came on, with Carey hitting Arjun Nair for a six over mid-wicket and lofting Ahmed over cover in the next over. When Head followed with another slog sweep for six off Nair, the Strikers looked set for a big total. It was not to be.

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Not happy: Mitchell McClenaghan’s emotions boiled over after colliding with Jonathan Wells and dropping a catch.

Neither man would hit another boundary, as Nair bagged Head three balls later. The Strikers captain was ready for a sweep shot, and was caught out by the short, wide off-break that followed, getting a bottom edge which was well taken by Jos Buttler. Carey was undone by the pressure a few overs later, attempting a reverse sweep off Nair and never looking in control of the shot. Colin Ingram never got going and departed the ball after hitting Nair over mid-wicket for his first boundary, and the new pair of Jonathan Wells and Jake Lehmann couldn’t find any momentum, or the fence. Mitchell McClenaghan’s bowling at the end was erratic and frustrated, with one particularly memorable ball landing wide of the cut strip and being called a no-ball for a waist high full toss. He also caused a long delay as Wells was investigated for obstructing the field, and looked flustered and off his game. The Strikers could not capitalise, and their total of 6/163 looked well below par on a good pitch.

It looked even worse when Jos Buttler hit the first two balls of the innings to the boundary, although the Strikers had steadied somewhat when Peter Siddle entered the attack in the third over. Siddle used the nagging accuracy which made him such an effective Test bowler to great effect, tying down Kurtis Patterson and collecting the big wicket of Buttler as Billy Stanlake took a catch backpedalling at fine-leg. Some effective bowling limited the Thunder to 1/35 by the end of the PowerPlay, even with Ben Laughlin giving away some free boundaries when introduced into the attack. Rashid entered directly afterwards, and saw two of his first three balls cut to the boundary. He didn’t concede another.

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Breakthrough: Peter Siddle takes a nice catch to remove Kurtis Patterson for 48.

The big wicket fell when Shane Watson, the hero of the Thunder’s first up win, holed out, attempting to hit Head out of the attack. The theory of taking on the part-timer was sound, but in practice it backfired as the Strikers captain dismissed his opposite number with his first ball. Patterson managed to hit some nice shots against Head and moved into the forties while playing with more fluency than he had done in the season opener. Then Rashid took his two wickets in three balls, and the collapse had begun. Patterson was still at large, but when he fell brashly advancing down the wicket against Stanlake the Thunder’s bandwagon, which had been starting to slip, fell off a cliff. Aiden Blizzard used his fluoro green bat to hit his second ball in the air. Chris Green, with a similarly coloured blade, couldn’t even hit the one ball he faced, Ben Laughlin picking up a second wicket in three balls as Green was out leg before. McClenaghan got a wide one first up, and somehow bunted it into the air for Head to take his second catch of the over. The hat-trick ball was negotiated by Nair, who had observed the carnage from the other end, but the game was over.

Neither Fawad Ahmed nor Andrew Fekete could do more than look shaky and eventually get out as the game meandered to its inevitable conclusion. Nair continued to fight, hitting a nice six and displaying excellent temperament and technique against the excellent and diverse bowling attack, but the Thunder were way too far gone for his battling 23 not out to matter. The Strikers exposed the fragility of the Thunder’s batting line-up with ruthless efficiency, picking up a big first-up win and looking like a force to be reckoned with.

Top 5
1. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
The 19-year-old from Afghanistan did not disappoint on his BBL debut, getting better the longer he bowled and turning the game on its head with the wickets of Gibson and Rohrer in the space of three balls. He was turning the ball both ways by the end of the innings, and suggested that he still has some room for improvement.
2. Peter Siddle (Adelaide Strikers)
Siddle’s bowling was almost perfect, bowling no bad balls in three overs and removing Buttler before he could do too much damage. He has managed to turn his remarkable accuracy into a major strength, and appears to have improved his T20 bowling.
3. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair looked more composed than his more experienced teammates with bat in hand, and took three big wickets as the Strikers looked to push on with their fast start. He showed excellent skills and turned the ball both ways, and looks to be an exciting young prospect.
4. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin was poor early, but a big second over ensured the Thunder could not get back in the game. He finished with four wickets as the batsmen looked to take him on, often falling in the attempt. His slower balls were as effective as ever, but there was definitely room for improvement.
5. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey showed why he was a contender to take the gloves for Australia with a top-class wicketkeeping display to back up a great innings. He fell just 6 short of a half-century, but found the middle of the bat well and played a lofted cover drive off Ahmed which was particularly impressive. He took a pair of nice catches and was almost flawless behind the stumps.