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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Scorchers can’t take the Heat as Cutting and Doggett shine

Brisbane Heat vs Perth Scorchers
Brisbane Heat 191-6 (Cutting 46, Lynn 39, Burns 36, McCullum 32, Willey 40-2) def Perth Scorchers 142 (Agar 31, Willey 25, Doggett 35-5, Steketee 28-3) by 49 runs at the Gabba

All through this season, the Perth Scorchers have dug themselves out of holes, and have won from all kinds of positions. They haven’t looked perfect, but they have always done just enough to come through with the win. This time, however, things were different. The Brisbane Heat got off to a flying start, and the Scorchers’ usually dependable bowling attack had no answer as they were belted to all areas of the Gabba and never got themselves back in the game. The Heat were just too good, as the Scorchers winning run was ended in the most emphatic way possible.

The Heat seized the early initiative, with Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum finding their destructive best. Lynn’s innings alternated between streaky and destructive, with edges through the slips and fine leg combining with some breathtaking displays of raw power. Jhye Richardson and Andrew Tye were flayed through the covers, and David Willey was slapped contemptuously back over his head. When McCullum began to join in the act, the Heat’s tally had reached 0/57 off 5 overs and the Scorchers looked as if they would be blown away. Then they recovered. Willey started it by removing Lynn, who had always looked like the danger man. He was cramped for room and could only hit the ball straight up as Michael Klinger took a tumbling catch. Balls later, McCullum was nearly dismissed too, as second-gamer Tim David dropped a relatively straightforward catch on the boundary. It could have been costly, but it wasn’t.

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Powerful: Ben Cutting hits the ball onto the leg-side during his brutal 46.

Ashton Agar and Joel Paris brought about the Heat’s middle overs struggles. Neither McCullum nor Sam Heazlett could get the ball to the fence, and soon both were gone. Heazlett was the first to succumb, picking out David on the edge of the ridiculously short boundary on one side of the ground, and McCullum chipped one to cover the next over. When Alex Ross, so often the reassuring presence for the Heat this season, was bowled by a ripping Richardson yorker, the Scorchers appeared to have turned things around completely. Then the short boundary came into play. Joe Burns did what few others have and launched the dangerous Tye over the rope three times in an over, and plundered the tournament’s leading wicket-taker for 23 off six balls. Then Ben Cutting got in on the act.

Cutting had arrived at the crease with the Heat in a bit of trouble following the dismissal of Alex Ross, and looked to have ended his stay at the crease before it had begun when he top edged a sweep shot off Agar. Tye looked slightly lackadaisical as he ran in to take the catch and slid forwards in an attempt to take it, and it went to ground. It was a costly miss, but Cutting still hadn’t got going as Burns launched his assault at the other end. Then Paris came on, with the short boundary on the leg-side. Two full tosses were dispatched, along with a half-volley, and Cutting never looked back. When Richardson served up a full toss on his hip, it was helped on its way, and in the last over Willey was belted to the long boundary as Cutting flew to 46 off just 19 balls. He was out the next ball, but his big-hitting had carried the Heat to a total of 6/191 which looked too big for the Scorchers.

The Scorchers never had the firepower to finish off the chase. Michael Klinger hit some nice shots, but had no support from the out-of-sorts Willey and was dismissed as he slashed hard at Mark Steketee but lost his shape. Hilton Cartwright was gone for a golden duck, edging a length ball to a diving Burns at slip. Ashton Turner negotiated the hat-trick ball and Willey closed out the over with an ugly slash for three, but the Scorchers already looked out of the contest. They were an unconvincing 2/38 when the PowerPlay closed, as the Heat tightened the screws.

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Game over: Ashton Turner makes the long walk back after being dismissed by Brendan Doggett.

Willey’s innings lasted a long time but never really got out of first gear. He could barely score singles as the innings started, and it didn’t improve even when he helped a short leg-side ball from Brendan Doggett to the boundary. He was only going at a run a ball after depositing Yasir Shah over his head for six, and was out the next over, his occupation ending as he hit Mitchell Swepson straight to Burns. Any hopes of a flurry of boundaries from the hard-hitting Englishman evaporated, and after his departure the Scorchers didn’t look a chance. Turner played a ramp shot for four and was dismissed the next ball, chipping a catch to Swepson. It was over.

Agar started to give the Scorchers a faint hope as he carted Swepson for a pair of sixes. Then Voges was dismissed, hitting the ball too flat and picking out the man on the rope. Agar swung hard, but his efforts were futile as he found deep mid-wicket, and with his dismissal the Scorchers’ hopes of a Lazarus-style comeback were finally extinguished. Doggett removed Josh Inglis, David, Tye and Paris late to collect five wickets for the match, but his haul was merely a postscript to a game which was meandering to its inevitable conclusion. The final margin of 49 runs reflected the gap between the sides perfectly, as the Scorchers’ aura of invincibility was shattered by a match in which they were outbatted, outbowled and outfielded by a better side. The Heat go top of the table, with the caveat of more games played than their competition, and are starting to look like a force to be reckoned with.

Top 5
1. Ben Cutting (Brisbane Heat)
Cutting was in excellent touch with the bat, playing himself in before exploding in the closing overs to take the Heat to an unassailable total. He hit the ball with tremendous power through mid-wicket, and showed good maturity to play himself in with his side under pressure. His bowling was far from spectacular, but he showed enough consistency to justify his selection as the fifth bowler.
2. Brendan Doggett (Brisbane Heat)
Doggett capitalised as the game finished with a flurry of wickets and boundaries, bowling a consistent line and length and removing four batsmen late as they looked to go for the slog. His wicket of Turner came just as he was looking to get a move on, and all but ended the Scorchers’ chances. Put in an extraordinary effort in the field.
3. Chris Lynn (Brisbane Heat)
Lynn found his dominant best in a big way to get the Heat off to a flying start, and looks perfectly at home opening the innings. He showed brutal power straight and through the covers, and his rapid start after receiving a bit of early luck put the Scorchers on the back foot. His efforts ensured the Heat will be sorry to lose him to international duty so soon after his return.
4. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar returned from his brief stay with the Test squad to deliver an all-round performance of excellent quality, bowling in the right areas to halt the Heat’s early momentum and top-scoring for his side with a well made 31. He hit the ball nicely throughout, and his calmness under pressure with both bat and ball was a rare highlight for the Scorchers.
5. Mark Steketee (Brisbane Heat)
Steketee finished with three massive wickets after an excellent bowling performance. His dismissals of Klinger and Cartwright drove a wedge through the Scorchers’ top order, and he removed Agar just as he looked to get going to cap off a great bowling performance. He found pace, consistency and some nice bounce, and has stepped up to lead the pace attack well.

Bash Brothers shine to make short work of Stars

Melbourne Stars vs Brisbane Heat
Melbourne Stars 141-7 (Maxwell 50, Pietersen 30, Swepson 14-3) lost to Brisbane Heat 144-1 (Lynn 63*, McCullum 61) by 9 wickets at MCG

James Faulkner was the bowler. Chris Lynn, promoted to open the innings, was on strike, facing his third ball. He tried to hit the ball hard, possibly too hard. It was a catch for John Hastings, who took a couple of steps to his right at mid-off. He fumbled once, then did it again. It was as if time stood still as the ball bobbled in the hands of the Melbourne Stars captain. Three grabs, four, and he still hadn’t pinned it down. It wasn’t clear how many chances he had to take it, even with all eyes affixed to the juggling act in anticipation or nervousness. And then it fell, rolling on the ground. There was no chance of stealing a single: Lynn and Brendon McCullum, the simultaneously feared and admired Bash Brothers, were frozen where they stood, hearts in mouths. As the game wound to an inevitable conclusion with Lynn pounding the ball to all areas of the MCG, the Stars could only rue the missed chance.

Lynn was out of form to start his innings, and it was McCullum who filled the void. He shimmied down the pitch with rapid footwork against pacemen and spinners alike, and began to make short work of the Stars’ below par 141. The Stars had flooded their line-up with spinners in an attempt to quell the Brisbane Heat’s dynamic openers, but it had no impact as McCullum drilled them for towering sixes and crushing fours. As Lynn battled to stay alive, with Adam Zampa even managing to nick his leg stump without any disturbance to the wicket, his captain thrived, and the game seemed to slip away from the hosts with every ball the pair faced.

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Majestic: Chris Lynn hits the ball to the leg side during his unbeaten 63.

Then Lynn started to get a move on. His first six came at the end of the seventh over, with the ball nowhere near the middle but gaining just enough traction to elude Rob Quiney’s outstretched hand on the rope. His next big hits were much more convincing. Hastings was drilled over square leg and carved through point, and only avoided being hit for a second six by virtue of a brilliant effort from Glenn Maxwell, who caught the ball inbounds before tossing it back over the rope as he hung in the void between the field of play and the crowd. Liam Bowe was introduced into the attack, and McCullum took full toll with a six and a pair of fours to pass fifty, before he was dismissed. He attempted one big shot too many, and Bowe claimed his scalp as Quiney calmly took the catch, but the game had already passed the Stars by.

The rest of the runs were knocked off in no time at all. Joe Burns came out and played with effortless timing, and Lynn passed his fifty with a massive six and an outside edge off the bowling of Marcus Stoinis, perfectly summing up an innings containing an incongruous combination of scratchy edges and beautifully hit sixes. He finished the game with a four over cover, backing away against Michael Beer and smashing it through the vacant off side. The Heat were just too good.

Earlier, the Stars had never found enough fluency with the bat, despite some promising signs. Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen recovered from the early loss of Ben Dunk with a well-constructed 43-run stand. Both were dropped early and looked set to make the Heat pay for their errant fielding, with Pietersen timing the ball perfectly on both sides of the wicket and Wright especially proficient when cutting. Then the PowerPlay ended, and the troubles began.

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Man in form: Mitchell Swepson celebrates the removal of Kevin Pietersen.

The Stars’ woes were caused by the Heat’s spin twins of Yasir Shah and Mitchell Swepson. Yasir had bagged the first wicket by trapping Dunk in front of middle stump, and returned to the attack in the middle overs to keep the runs down and the pressure on. At the other end, Swepson took over. Wright was trapped in no man’s land after running down the wicket, and Jimmy Peirson whipped off the bails. Pietersen, having compiled a fluent 30, attempted an ill-fated loft and was caught. Soon, the pressure was too much, and when Stoinis was run out and Quiney meekly bunted his second ball back to Swepson to gift him a third wicket the Stars were in all sorts of trouble. It was Maxwell who provided the maturity and the power to give them something to defend.

Maxwell came in when Wright departed and started uncharacteristically slowly. It took 13 balls before he hit his first boundary with an effortless upper cut just wide of the keeper, but it was an anomaly in an anomalously cautious innings rather than the start of a blistering cameo. As wickets tumbled at the other end, he was reduced to knocking singles around. For one fleeting moment, as the innings wrapped up, it looked as if he was going to hit his dominant best. Brendan Doggett was slapped straight and Mark Steketee was hit for a trio of fours, with the third of these bringing up his half-century, and with just two overs to go it looked as if he could get them to a competitive score.

Then he holed out, and the innings never threatened to reach such heights again. James Faulkner couldn’t find his form or his timing, and John Hastings’ effort was as entertaining as it was brief, with the first ball knocking off his helmet and the second providing his downfall. Even on the vast expanses of the MCG, 7/141 seemed well below par. It looked absolutely miniscule by the time Lynn and McCullum had dealt with it. The winless Stars were just no match for the dominance of the Heat at their best, and need some big changes if they are to save their floundering campaign.

Top 5
1. Brendon McCullum (Brisbane Heat)
The Stars came out with a clear plan to stifle McCullum, and he found a way to tear them apart anyway. He hit the ball with plenty of power and his aggressive spirit remained intact throughout as he shepherded a struggling Lynn through the PowerPlay while striking a series of lusty blows. His rapid-fire 61 was too much for the Stars to handle, as he returned to his best form in a big way.
2. Mitchell Swepson (Brisbane Heat)
Swepson was the star of the Heat’s bowling effort, keeping the runs down and driving a wedge through the Stars’ middle order on his way to a crucial 3/14. His dismissals of the well-set Wright and Pietersen proved too much for the Stars to deal with, and he looks to be bowling with plenty of skill and confidence.
3. Chris Lynn (Brisbane Heat)
Lynn was nowhere near his best form, but he made 63 anyway. He should have been out with the third ball of the innings, but he made the most of his reprieve and showed signs of his best ball striking with a wonderful six over square leg. He showed excellent fight, and his ability to score big runs despite poor form should sound a warning to the rest of the competition.
4. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell gave the Stars something to defend with a fighting half-century, and showed a maturity which had been sorely lacking in his first two innings of the Big Bash. Once he started finding the middle he looked very tough to stop, and the Stars will be needing all the destructive power he can muster if they are to rectify their slump.
5. Yasir Shah (Brisbane Heat)
Yasir bowled well at the start of the innings and returned to great effect through the middle overs. He picked up the big early wicket of Dunk, and bowled beautifully in conjunction with Swepson to put the Stars under the pump. He has found plenty of control and penetration in his first games in Australia, and looks to be a very good pick-up for the Heat.

Strikers win big as Heat go cold

Adelaide Strikers vs Brisbane Heat
Adelaide Strikers 147-7 (Neser 40*, Lalor 40-3, Yasir 18-2) def Brisbane Heat 91 (Laughlin 11-3, Neser 7-2, Rashid 19-2) by 56 runs at Adelaide Oval

Chris Lynn wasn’t out. The Brisbane Heat’s bald-headed, big hitting destroyer of attacks played and missed at his third ball, a well-flighted leg break from Rashid Khan, the Afghan teenage sensation tasked with removing him. There was a noise as it passed through into the gloves of Alex Carey. It could have been the bat clipping the ground. It could have been something else. At this point, all that mattered was the fact that it wasn’t the bat and the cruel injustice of the umpire’s raised finger, heralding the end of an all-too-brief stay at the crease. If it was a Test match, Lynn would have been reprieved by the mercy of the DRS. Instead, he could only shake his head with indignation writ large upon his usually impassive face as he made his way back to the pavilion. The Heat never recovered, as the Adelaide Strikers cut swathes through their star-studded line up on their way to a crushing victory.

The Strikers had done well to reach a below-par 147. Josh Lalor had seized the early initiative, bowling Carey and Jake Weatherald with a pair of near identical balls which swung past their inside edges as they looked to play big slogs and clipped the top of leg stump. Travis Head survived the loss of the openers, but was tied down by Yasir Shah and was bowled when he looked to go for the big hit. When Jonathan Wells bunted a catch to short cover and Colin Ingram showed poor match awareness to pick out the man in the deep with the last ball of Yasir’s spell, the Strikers appeared set for a big defeat.

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Recovery: Michael Neser hits to the leg side during his 40 not out.

Then Jake Lehmann and Michael Neser stepped up to mount an unlikely recovery, abetted by the Heat’s poor fielding. Lehmann was dropped first ball by Mark Steketee and on two by Lalor, and a misfield from Cameron Gannon gifted him his first boundary. There were edges just past the keeper and mishits all over the ground, but he dug in and just kept going. It was Neser who provided the fireworks. He too was dropped, Lalor missing a tough chance at mid-on, and went on to hit the ball with plenty of power. A short ball from Lalor was smashed for six, and the next one was drilled through the field for four. Lehmann was finally caught the next over, but when Rashid came in and hit his first ball over point for six, the Strikers had salvaged something from the wreck of their destroyed top order. Still, 147 was nowhere near enough against the biggest hitting batting line-up in the league.

In isolation, the Heat may have been able to withstand Lynn’s departure, even coming just after James Peirson had holed out against Head. When it came with a complementary batting collapse, however, they were never going to escape. Joe Burns was undone by Billy Stanlake’s sharp pace and bounce, and popped up a catch for a sliding Rashid. Then Neser, with his first ball, joined the action by ripping through the defences of the red hot Alex Ross with a ball that swung and seamed through the gate. Ben Cutting played some nice shots against Rashid, but fell playing a shot that can best by described as a limp cut shot bunt into the waiting hands of Ingram. Brendon McCullum had opened the batting, and could only witness the chaos from the other end.

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Smiling assassin: Rashid Khan (right) celebrates after his controversial dismissal of Chris Lynn.

Gannon joined him after Cutting departed, and began to play some nice shots, but it was hard to see any means by which the Heat could be saved from themselves. Eventually McCullum, completely starved of strike and frustrated by the effort of stifling his usual belligerence at the crease, looked to take on Neser and gave away his wicket. It was over. All the Strikers had to do was go through the motions, as some bizarre running from Gannon cost Lalor his wicket. It was Peter Siddle who completed it off his own bowling, picking the ball up at Lalor’s feet and calmly throwing down the bowler’s end stumps. On a New Year’s Eve night, the only thing resembling fireworks was the lighting up of the specially coloured stumps, as Ben Laughlin disposed of Steketee with an unplayable in-swinging yorker and Rashid finally broke through Gannon’s stoic resistance. When Mitchell Swepson holed out to give Laughlin a third wicket, it concluded a game which had been going through the motions for some time. The Heat showed no resilience or determination, and paid a heavy price.

Top 5
1. Michael Neser (Adelaide Strikers)
Neser was the sole reason the Strikers had a total to defend, hitting some excellent shots in the closing overs of the innings on his way to a valuable 40 not out. He took two key wickets in the second innings and was very hard to get away, finishing with 2/7 and the scalps of Ross and McCullum to complete a perfect game.
2. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin was once again in the wickets, finishing with 3/11, and bowled as well as he has all season. He removed Steketee with a perfectly delivered yorker, and his skills were on full display as he backed up his teammates’ devastating PowerPlay with some accurate and very clever bowling to dismiss Cutting.
3. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid was again in top form with the ball, getting hit around by Cutting but otherwise delivering with the massive wicket of Lynn and the removal of top scorer Gannon. He turned the ball both ways with ease, grabbed a catch and hit a six with his first ball faced in the Big Bash to complete an entertaining all-round game.
4. Yasir Shah (Brisbane Heat)
Yasir showed the class that made him one of the best bowlers in world cricket, removing Head and Ingram to drive a wedge through the Strikers middle order on his way to excellent figures of 2/18. He mixed things up well and barely bowled a bad ball, and looks like an good choice to replace Shadab Khan as the Heat’s overseas player.
5. Josh Lalor (Brisbane Heat)
Lalor was very good with ball in hand, removing both Strikers openers and creating plenty of issues with his ability to swing the ball back in to the left-handers. He was expensive towards the end of his spell, but dismissed Rashid immediately after being hit for six to finish with a well-deserved three wickets.

Heat just too good for workmanlike Thunder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No contest as Renegades breeze past Heat

Melbourne Renegades vs Brisbane Heat
Brisbane Heat 132-8 (Ross 48, Wildermuth 16-3, Hogg 25-2, Bravo 27-2) lost to Melbourne Renegades 137-3 (Cooper 52*, White 51, Shadab 17-2) by 7 wickets at Etihad Stadium

Brendon McCullum is 36, and has entered the twilight of his career. He is the Brisbane Heat’s oldest player, but, if the events of their clash with the Melbourne Renegades are anything to go by, he is still the biggest fish in the Heat’s pond. 8 balls into the match, Tom Cooper, with his flat, non-turning off-breaks, made the breakthrough, and the Heat never recovered. McCullum attacked Cooper with his usual aggression, but the ball slipped through his sweep shot and knocked into his stumps. Cooper raised his arms, as much a gesture of surprise as triumph, and the Renegades marched to a comfortable and satisfying win in front of their home fans.

Jack Wildermuth’s introduction in the fourth over completely killed off the Heat’s innings. Sam Heazlett attempted to follow up a lofted four with another big shot, and the resultant chance hung in the air long enough for Aaron Finch to send him on his way. The run rate ground to a halt, and Jimmy Peirson’s poor decision to go for a slog resulted in the off stump being uprooted as the Heat fell to 3/29 at the conclusion of the PowerPlay. Alex Ross looked in nice form as the Heat looked to mount their recovery, and Marnus Labuschagne had luck on his side, but neither could push the pace enough to threaten the Renegades. When Wildermuth returned to light up Labuschagne’s stumps with a very nice delivery, and the game was all but over.

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Swing-and-a-miss: Alex Ross loses his off stump at the hands of Dwayne Bravo.

Ross went on to make 48 before being bowled by Dwayne Bravo, and Ben Cutting hit some lusty blows before holing out to a Brad Hogg full toss. Hogg then removed Shadab Khan two balls later with an excellent wrong-un, and the Heat limped over the finish line to reach 132 with a bottom-edged four from the last ball. It was never going to be enough. Shadab gave his side a glimmer of hope with an excellent spell of PowerPlay bowling which saw Finch edge one through to Peirson and Marcus Harris, so fluent in the Renegades’ opener against the Hurricanes, clean bowled. His wicket brought Cooper to the wicket to join Cameron White.

White had been dominant in the first game of the season, and showed no sign of letting up here. He was such a soothing presence at this crease it felt as if he could bat days without being dismissed, and he was never overawed even as the Heat built some pressure with their tight bowling. He started to find form with a pair of crisp flicks against the bowling of Mark Steketee, and hit a nice four when Brendan Doggett bowled him a short, slow delivery on a free hit. Later in the over he hit a beautiful square drive, and looked like he would get the runs on his own. He slowed, and for the next few overs he only found the boundary sparingly, hitting a couple of big sixes against the otherwise economical Mitchell Swepson but mainly dealing in singles. He was in complete control as the Renegades marched clinically towards their target.

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Men in form: Cameron White (left) and Tom Cooper meet in the middle of the pitch during their 89-run stand.

Cooper’s innings was completely different but just as important. Unlike White, who came out looking as if he was starting on 100, Cooper scratched around and looked out of form. He crawled to two off ten balls, and was barely getting the ball off the square. He found some timing as the innings went on, but his progress was still painfully slow. It was a well-played ramp shot which gave his innings the boost it needed, the ball running away to the fine leg boundary to give him his first four. It was the twelfth over. From that point, Cooper began to find the middle with almost every shot. He smacked Doggett for six over mid-wicket, and took three runs with a lofted drive after McCullum attempted to flick the ball back and missed it completely. He used all of his power and all of his touch as he began to accelerate, hitting some beautiful drives when Cutting entered the attack to all but seal the deal.

White departed at the end of Cutting’s seventeenth over, but by that point the pursuit of 133 had become a formality. Brad Hodge hit Steketee for six with his third ball, and Cooper closed it out with a pull shot over the fence two balls later, bringing up a well-deserved fifty and closing out a comprehensive victory for a Renegades side who are on the top of their game. The Heat, minus Chris Lynn and Joe Burns, looked fragile, and need to work to ensure that this does not undermine their season.

Top 5
1. Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper was nowhere near his best at the start of his innings, but he battled through it admirably and finished with a very nice fifty to guide his team home. By the end he was hitting everything out of the middle in an innings which bodes well for the season ahead. He did well to claim the big wicket of McCullum with his darts.
2. Jack Wildermuth (Melbourne Renegades)
Wildermuth was at his best against his old team, bowling with pace and control to put the Heat under pressure and run through the top order. He showed plenty of skill and deserved to come out of it with three big wickets in a strong bowling performance.
3. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White is in brilliant form at the moment and it showed once again, as he settled any nerves the Renegades might have had with his reassuring presence at the crease. He marshalled his side through the chase with excellent technique and even better temperament, and would have been disappointed to depart so close to the target.
4. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
Ross was the sole reason that the Heat lodged anything resembling a defendable target. He came in with the innings in turmoil, and he didn’t panic while playing a mature innings with plenty of self-control. He showed that he can be the perfect counterpoint to the aggression of his teammates, but needs some support to play this role.
5. Shadab Khan (Brisbane Heat)
The best of the Heat’s bowlers, he kept the runs down with his flat, darting leg-spinners and manage to claim the scalps of both openers. His spell gave the Heat something of a chance, but they couldn’t capitalise. If he can bowl like that regularly he will be very difficult to get away.

Sydney: The Sydney Sixers collapsed at the hands of a top-class bowling effort from the Perth Scorchers, who were shaky throughout the chase but came out on top thanks to a 27-ball 52 from Ashton Turner.

Solid Heat overcome Stoinis blitz

Brisbane Heat vs Melbourne Stars
Brisbane Heat 206-7 (Ross 51, Burns 50, McCullum 40, Cutting 35, Stoinis 38-3, Beer 21-2) def Melbourne Stars 191-6 (Stoinis 99, Faulkner 47*, Shadab 41-2) by 15 runs at the Gabba

18 runs required off three balls. At this point, the Melbourne Stars still had a mathematical chance of scoring a remarkable win over the Brisbane Heat. Mathematical chance, however, is code for no chance at all. When Marcus Stoinis hit the next ball from Mark Steketee, it wasn’t a six. Instead, it was dropped on the fence by sub fielder Marnus Labuschagne, who proceeded to run Stoinis out as he attempted a second. Stoinis was on 99. On another day, given different circumstances, he would have made a deserved century. Instead, he was inches short. The Stars, chasing the Heat’s formidable 206, were not so close.

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So close: Marcus Stoinis walks off after being run out for 99.

Stoinis had come to the crease following the fall of Glenn Maxwell, who missed out on selection for the Test team and proceeded to score a destructive 278 in his next outing. He looked like a man in form, but holed out to a half-tracker from Shadab Khan before he could prove it. Ben Dunk, the club’s marquee recruit, had been out for a duck, his innings over so quickly that anyone a little late in returning to the action following the innings break would have missed it. Kevin Pietersen had looked good, but drilled a catch straight to Brendon McCullum straight after hitting a big six. Stoinis hit his second ball for six, off Shadab. The ball barely appeared to have travelled off the bat, and Stoinis didn’t seem to swing hard at it, but it just kept travelling. It was then that the Heat should have been worried.

All of his shots looked like that as he continued to make headway against some very good bowling, with young leggie Mitchell Swepson showing his impressive credentials by turning the ball both ways and staying calm under pressure. By this time Luke Wright, who had survived the collapse, was also out, bowled by a beautiful change-up from Shadab. The score was 4/53. Stoinis hit two more nonchalant sixes off Shadab, and continued to turn the strike over with precision and confidence when the boundaries weren’t coming. When Ben Cutting entered the attack, he finally exploded. At the start of the over, he was 42, and fours over mid-on and mid-off brought up 50. A six over mid-wicket was followed with an attempted uppercut, with Stoinis’ annoyed utterance of ‘knew it’ into the stump mic showing how in tune he was with the game. The next one went over the rope too, making 22 off the over and 64 in total. Stoinis looked set to go.

Yet he continued to be patient, waiting for his ball and showing a rare piece of touch by reverse sweeping Shadab through a vacant third man. James Faulkner, his partner, had begun to get going, and the formidable target was no longer completely out of reach. The next two overs passed without incident, however, and it was done long before they needed 24 off the last over, a target required despite a boundary-laden 19th over. Stoinis was on 92, but couldn’t find the rope. The Heat were deserved winners, and Stoinis a deserved man of the match. The Stars just had too many passengers.

Brendon McCullum had given the Heat’s innings the kick they were after. He hit his first ball for four, and capitalised when Scott Boland bowled right into the Heat captain’s zone – three balls in a row – on his way to conceding 24 off his first over. John Hastings, the new captain of the Stars, did not fare much better, his second ball plastered over mid-wicket on what was, admittedly a great batting wicket. While the quicks struggled, Michael Beer bowled as well as ever, tying the Heat down and limiting their PowerPlay score to 57 while bagging two wickets. Jimmy Peirson gave John Hastings catching practice with a shot that can best be described as a soft aerial bunt, and Sam Heazlett’s frustration got to him as he slogged and found the same fielder with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

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Joe Burns hits to the leg side during his 50.

Stoinis bagged McCullum for 40 three balls after Heazlett, and at 3/61 the Heat were in trouble, especially without their star man. With Chris Lynn tantalisingly close to the action but so far away, Joe Burns and Alex Ross set about their recovery mission against some solid bowling. Eventually it was Burns who got away, hitting Stoinis for a big six and giving the innings a further boost by slapping Hastings to all corners of the Gabba. He was out (to Stoinis, again) the ball after bringing up his half-century with a six, and Ben Cutting continued the assault while Ross just kept on batting.

Showing off the hitting that once elevated him into the Australian team, Cutting sent the ball flying off the middle of the bat, with Ross providing steady company. Boland and Hastings were plundered yet again, both finishing 48 off their three overs. Boland received some gratification with the wicket of Ross, but their costly full tosses in the closing overs proved too much for the Stars to overcome, and the Heat’s steady performance was more than enough to see them over the line. The Heat were a cut above in every respect, and showed a level of depth which should send a strong message to the rest of the league.

Top 5
1. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was on the losing side, but he was a cut above the rest, scoring more runs and taking more wickets than anyone else and batting with brutal power and perfect timing. He was unlucky not to get a century, and his bowling was more effective than most on a Gabba pitch which was perfect for batting. Needed a lot more support from his teammates.
2. Joe Burns (Brisbane Heat)
Burns ensured the non-presence of Lynn was not an issue with a composed but powerful half-century, finding the boundary well when he got going and suggesting that he could be in for a big season. He picked up an injury along the way, and the Heat will hope that it’s not too serious.
3. Brendon McCullum (Brisbane Heat)
McCullum kickstarted the innings in his trademark style, hitting plenty of boundaries and getting his side off to flying start. His captaincy was as bold and brash as his batting and allowed the Heat to put the Stars under the pump, and his fielding was as athletic as ever in a great all round showing.
4. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
While Burns and Cutting provided the power, Ross was the steadying presence through the middle overs, hitting some nice boundaries but mostly turning the strike over. He came in under pressure and delivered, and his running between the wickets was first rate.
5. James Faulkner (Melbourne Stars)
After only bowling one over in the Heat’s innings, Faulkner played an effective second fiddle to Stoinis during their 137-run partnership. He finished three runs short of a half-century, and never looked in top form, but he became more fluent as the innings progressed and hit the ball with good power towards the end.