Maxwell does well, Sixers do better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.