Masterful Klinger guides Scorchers home

Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers
Sydney Sixers 167-4 (Silk 45*, Billings 33, Nevill 33, Maddinson 30, Willey 30-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 170-4 (Klinger 83, Turner 45, Sams 25-2) by 6 wickets at the WACA

Hilton Cartwright had just hit a pair of beautiful cover drives for four, as Steve O’Keefe pitched up and was whacked by virtue of lightning footwork and even faster hands. He needed to recover, and Cartwright, deprived of width, could only work the ball into the leg-side, straight to Johan Botha. Then Cartwright ran. He was sent back by Michael Klinger, who saw the dangers immediately, and was caught out by a long way as Peter Nevill whipped off the bails. The score was 2/17 after three overs, and the Scorchers, chasing 168, looked finished as Ashton Turner walked to the crease.

For the first time this season, the Scorchers had looked distinctly off colour. Mitchell Johnson was as tight as ever but didn’t have the penetration. Jhye Richardson, in presenting Nevill with a series of short, wide offerings, was not even tight. In their first three games, the Scorchers took a total of ten wickets in the PowerPlay. Here, they took one, as David Willey trapped Jason Roy lbw with a ball that pitched outside leg. For the first time in this tournament, the Sixers got off to a good start with the bat as Nic Maddinson and Nevill stroked the ball with ease. Nevill eventually departed to James Muirhead’s first ball, a wide half-volley which drew a poorly played slog and saw Daniel Hughes’ very late replacement stumped. Maddinson was a victim of a great catch from Andrew Tye, who threw it up after taking the ball, tripped on the rope and recouped it well, but he can have no complaints given the horribly played slog that was his downfall.

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Full flight: Jordan Silk hits another well-timed cover drive during his 45.

Sam Billings joined Jordan Silk and the pair ensured the innings had a big finish. They looked slightly below par even with some big hitting from Billings against the part-time spin of Adam Voges. They still looked below par as Silk was dropped by Cartwright, and when Tye outsmarted Billings to finish the eighteenth over on a high the Sixers looked to be in trouble. Then Ben Dwarshuis joined Silk, and a rapid finish ensued. Willey didn’t have the variety to bowl at the death, and Silk grabbed a pair of boundaries, before Dwarshuis, promoted for the mad dash at the end, hit Richardson for a towering six and a crushing four to set the Scorchers a big target.

With Cartwright’s dismissal following Willey’s failure as a pinch hitter, Klinger and Turner had a massive job to do. Turner was nearly run out early, but he recovered and soon both had found their touch. Klinger hit Dwarshuis for a pair of fours through the off-side, the second beating two diving fielders on its way to the fence. Roy, diving to his left, dropped a near impossible catch as Klinger drilled a cut shot, and Daniel Sams was subsequently hit for a big six over mid-wicket. Will Somerville, bowling canny off-spin to cover for an injury to O’Keefe, kept the runs down and nearly had Turner caught, as the Scorchers failed to make any real progress.

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Concentration: Michael Klinger hits to the off-side during his masterful 83.

Then Turner started to get a few away. Sean Abbott pitched too short and was dispatched over mid-wicket. Botha was hit for an effortless straight six. Abbott’s next over saw Klinger get one over the off side and Turner toe one through a vacant long-on for another four. Maddinson came on with an over of part time left-arm spin. It was a catastrophe, with a full toss hit for a straight six by Turner and the last ball drilled for four by Klinger. Then came the drop. It was Dwarshuis, who couldn’t have had it any easier as Turner took on Somerville and miscued badly. Turner was on 41, and sat on 44 by the end of the over, while Klinger raised an ominously comfortable half-century. The drop looked to be the big moment. It wasn’t. Turner only added four more run before skying one off Sams, this time finding the safe hands of Silk and bringing debutant Tim David to the crease. The Scorchers needed 11 an over, and now they needed something special.

It was Klinger who provided. One of Australian cricket’s most consistent performers, he stood up when he was needed, with David assisting him ably. The debutant hit his second ball for a graceful six over long-off, and when Klinger decided to match him with a powerful slog, the Scorchers sat in a solid position even when Dwarshuis delivered an excellent death over as the hosts failed to find the boundary. Then things happened very fast. Abbott lost his cool as Klinger hit him for a hat-trick of boundaries, before Sams recovered with a tight over and the wicket of Klinger, gone for 83. With 7 balls left, fifteen were required. It took two legitimate deliveries, with David hitting Sams for an incredible straight six before Abbott collapsed, five wides down the leg side removing all the pressure before Voges got a full toss away for six. The Sixers looked to have done enough, but the Scorchers were, as ever, just too good when it mattered.

Top 5
1. Michael Klinger (Perth Scorchers)
Klinger played a flawless innings of 83 to get the Scorchers over the line, using all of his experience and class and managing the game to perfection. He whittled the target down with a smattering of boundaries throughout the innings, and never lost his composure even when the Scorchers lost early wickets.
2. Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
Turner salvaged the innings with his big-hitting, providing the Scorchers with the momentum they needed to complete the chase. He hit the ball beautifully to turn the game in the Scorchers’ favour, and despite benefitting from a fair slice of luck he looks to be a good option at number four.
3. Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)
Silk top scored with another excellent innings, hitting the ball around well at the end and finding plenty of timing and power. He finished just five runs shy of his half-century, and gave the Sixers a chance of setting an imposing target of 167. He is seeing the ball very well.
4. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey was the pick of the Scorchers’ bowlers, and despite an expensive last over he ensured they kept the target down with a pair of big wickets. He had a bit of luck with a favourable lbw decision, and couldn’t give anything with the bat, but his bowling at key points in the innings was dependable and kept the runs down well.
5. Daniel Sams (Sydney Sixers)
Sams was the pick of the Sixers’ bowlers, delivering when it mattered with the wickets of Turner and Klinger and an excellent penultimate over which gave them a chance. He is clearly the Sixers’ best death bowling option, and despite the odd bad ball he looks to be a good prospect for the future.

Vintage Watson guides Thunder home

Sydney Thunder vs Sydney Sixers
Sydney Sixers 149-9 (Billings 32, Maddinson 31, Hughes 29, Ahmed 11-2, McClenaghan 25-2, Nair 29-2) lost to Sydney Thunder 150-5 (Watson 77, Patterson 29, Sams 14-4) by 5 wickets at Spotless Stadium

The latest edition of the Big Bash League was greatly anticipated, and the season opening ‘Sydney Smash’ proved to be a thrilling contest with plenty of drama and a last ball win for the Thunder. In the midst of it all, Shane Watson played an innings reminiscent of his dominant best, treating anything short with contempt and providing his side with a calming presence to drag them past the target.

The Sixers were sent in to bat and started well, recovering from Mitchell McClenaghan’s early removal of Jason Roy to find the boundary with ease. Daniel Hughes looked composed if not spectacular, putting away any bad balls, and Nic Maddinson batted with a fluency he had not shown since his call-up to the Test team last summer. Maddinson’s lofted six over long-off was the main highlight as the Sixers scored 55 from the PowerPlay, setting a perfect base for a big score.

Enter Fawad Ahmed. He came into the attack in the seventh over with the Sixers cruising, and immediately began to turn the ball on a slow Spotless Stadium pitch. He used his variation to remove Maddinson for 31, and proceeded to tie down the Sixers by tossing the ball up and letting it turn. When Arjun Nair came on at the other end the consequences were devastating. Moises Henriques never got going, and after hitting a big six off Nair’s first ball he was dismissed when he tried again. Hughes had batted well, but he didn’t learn his lesson after an ill-advised slog nearly saw him stumped, instead choosing to go again and finding himself caught in the deep. Johan Botha came in and was beaten by the turn, Nair’s big-spinning off-break catching him with his bat nowhere near the ball. The Sixers were 5/80, and in big trouble.

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Jump for joy: Arjun Nair celebrates the wicket of Johan Botha, which left the Sixers 5/79

At this point Sam Billings stepped up. He had entered after Henriques threw his wicket away, and witnessed Hughes’ lack of awareness and Botha’s lack of technique from the other end, all while playing Ahmed and Nair’s excellent bowling with an unconcerned air befitting one of England’s best players of spin. It was a pair of stunning reverse sweeps which showed his class, crushing Nair to the fence with contemptuous ease as Peter Nevill struggled to find form at the other end. Nevill departed shortly afterwards, and Billings was run out for 32 after some excellent death bowling from McClenaghan and Andrew Fekete. At this point, Steve O’Keefe was leading the charge, hitting three boundaries through mid-wicket in a manner which suggested he had few other shots. McClenaghan proved this theory by bowling outside off stump, and four consecutive dots in the last over saw the Sixers limp to 149.

As fragile as the Sixers batting had looked, there remained a sense that the Thunder’s could be more so if they couldn’t get going. Their pursuit of 150 couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, Jos Buttler succumbing to some excellent bowling from the previously unheard of Daniel Sams and bringing Watson to the wicket at 1/1. Where the Sixers began fluently and aggressively, the Thunder were just slow. Kurtis Patterson found the middle of the bat but could not pick out a gap, and his only boundaries came from inside edges off Sams’ impressive left-arm pace. Watson looked to have some degree of control, with a particularly solid hit over mid-wicket hinting at a proficiency against the short ball the Sixers would have done well to heed.

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Top form: Shane Watson bats during his match-winning 77.

Even still, 1/37 was an inadequate haul, and even though Watson was able to hit the occasional boundary against the spin of Botha and O’Keefe the required run rate was soon beginning to rise and the pressure was starting to build. It was Sams who ended the partnership, claiming another wicket with a brilliant slower ball which decked back to bowl Patterson. When Ben Rohrer chipped a simple catch to Henriques off Botha and Ryan Gibson began to show a remarkable lack of form, the Thunder were in big trouble. Watson brought up his 50 in the 15th over with a big straight six, and followed up with another off Botha the next over, but Gibson was playing so badly that Watson was only facing two balls an over and retirement appeared a viable option.

It was at this point that Sean Abbott returned to the attack. Coming off a season in which he led the BBL in wickets, Abbott had bowled two overs with confidence before he decided to drop short to Watson. When, not unexpectedly, the in-form Thunder captain smashed it over mid-wicket, Abbott’s morale dropped like a lead balloon. The resilience he had possessed in spades last season was long gone, with a full toss followed by a massive wide and a short ball which was slashed over point. Watson had found his touch, and Abbott had completely lost his, as 16 came from the over and the Thunder were left needing 26 off 3 overs.

Soon Watson was gone, along with the horrendously out of sorts Gibson, when Sams returned. Both were caught as the young left-armer turned the match again, and the penultimate over, delivered by Bollinger, was similarly effective. With Nair and Aiden Blizzard at the crease, the latter with a fluorescent green bat in hand, the Thunder needed 15 off the last over. Abbott was bowling, and his self-confidence drained further as Nair hit two fours off bad balls to leave Blizzard with 6 to get off three. It was defendable, but a Thunder victory was the inevitable result as Abbott miscued again. With 1 needed off the last ball, Nair scrambled through for the winning runs to end a thrilling, topsy-turvy match which only heightens excitement levels for the season ahead.

Top 5
1. Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder)
The star of the show, Watson showed incredible composure to carry the Thunder’s innings with out-of-form teammates at the other end. He punished anything short or overpitched, and played a captain’s knock which reminded all watching of his destructive best.
2. Daniel Sams (Sydney Sixers)
Sams was incredible on debut, taking 4-14 and looking the Sixers most dangerous bowler by a long way. He took four of the five wickets, including the massive scalp of Watson, and he appears to be an excellent long-term prospect with his smarts and ability to change it up.
3. Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder)
Ahmed used his variations and flight to devastating effect, beginning with a wicket maiden and going on to deliver a spell which dismantled the Sixers early momentum. He bowled with confidence and excellent control, and his ability to put the brakes on the Sixers middle order bodes well for the tournament ahead.
4. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Things weren’t looking great for Nair when his first ball, a full toss, was dispatched to the boundary, but he responded by taking the massive wicket of Henriques and very nearly removing Hughes two balls later. He was tight and ensured that there was no let off when Ahmed was not bowling, and he made a handy contribution with the bat to seal the win.
5. Sam Billings (Sydney Sixers)
Played a mature innings amidst the Sixers spin-induced collapse, looking completely at ease and accelerating well to give his side a chance. His pair of reverse sweeps against Nair were beautiful shots, and he showcased his power with a nice six over mid-wicket when it was time to attack.