Hurricanes undone by lacklustre Stars

Melbourne Stars vs Hobart Hurricanes
Hobart Hurricanes 185-7 (Christian 56, Bailey 32, Reardon 32, Hastings 41-2) lost to Melbourne Stars 186-7 (Pietersen 46, Dunk 30, Mills 56-2) by 3 wickets at the MCG

For the Hobart Hurricanes, qualification was a formality. They had one game left, and a win would seal their spot in the Big Bash finals for the first time since 2014. Their opponents were the much-hyped but very disappointing Melbourne Stars, who had won just one match out of their previous nine. Sure, this was Kevin Pietersen’s farewell match, but the Stars just weren’t good enough.

Three hours later, the Hurricanes were in shock, and relying on results to go their way to secure that elusive finals berth. As they lost a match which saw plenty of bad cricket (on both sides) and was played with a jaunty lack of intensity throughout, they had to wonder where it all went wrong. Maybe they were unnerved by the Stars’ apparent lack of cricketing prowess. Maybe it was the fact that the Stars didn’t seem to care when their bowlers sprayed the ball around and their batsmen swung hard for inconsistent results. It was as if the Stars didn’t bother trying to play proper cricket, and it caught the Hurricanes off guard.

Sent in to bat, the Hurricanes didn’t start too well. There was a period this season where D’Arcy Short was hitting every ball in the middle and tearing attacks to shreds without presenting a chance. He was dismissed for a golden duck, by former Hurricane Ben Dunk. On the face of it, this doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider Dunk’s status as a wicketkeeper who doesn’t bowl and the fact that his first ball was sprayed a very long way down the leg-side. It was almost as if Short was done for lack of turn, overestimating the quality of his adversary’s darting straight-breaks. It was then that they should have noticed something was amiss.

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Unlikely hero: Ben Dunk celebrates after his ungainly off-spin dismisses the in-form D’Arcy Short.

It was hard to feel threatened, however, when the Stars bowled so badly. Daniel Worrall and Jackson Coleman were as inaccurate as they have been all season, and the latter started his spell with three wides on either side of the wicket. The Stars’ problems were compounded when Dunk managed to get himself a second over, and his lack of quality was promptly exposed by George Bailey’s aggression. Bailey and Matthew Wade steadied the ship against the awful Stars bowling, and the run rate was flying as the many bad balls were put away. The Stars looked strangely detached and didn’t really seem to care.

The next two wickets sneaked up on the Hurricanes. Bailey had played his most fluent innings of the season, but he was dismissed when he hit a short wide ball straight to point. Then John Hastings brought himself on and bagged the wicket of Wade, who top-edged a pull shot straight to deep mid-wicket. The Stars weren’t bowling any better, but they had the Hurricanes three down in the PowerPlay. It’s a position very few teams win from, but this seemed like an exception to the rule. Surely the Stars couldn’t win while pulling off the remarkable achievement of looking worse than they had all season.

Ben McDermott and Dan Christian came in with the Hurricanes needing to rebuild, despite no-one really knowing how the innings had fallen down. They succeeded initially, but the run rate slowed as the pair proceeded with caution. Both were working the ball around easily, and neither looked like getting out against the Stars’ feeble attack. There was an air of caution surrounding their play, but the Hurricanes knew that both men could hit the ball a long way if they chose. It was hardly time to panic.

Then McDermott went out. The wicket-taker was Liam Bowe, the bespectacled, slightly-stooped left-arm leg-spinner who was the Stars’ most consistent bowler. He tossed it up, McDermott missed his sweep, and the umpire took so long to raise his finger that Bowe had already stopped appealing and had started chasing the ball. It was a bizarre moment, but this was far from an ordinary game of cricket. When Simon Milenko creamed a cover drive straight to Hastings, the Hurricanes were once again in trouble, although it wasn’t clear how they had fallen so far.

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Late flurry: Nathan Reardon gave the Hurricanes some late momentum with his rapid 32.

Christian and Nathan Reardon dragged their team out of the hole with some good late hitting. After a slow start, it was the latter who provided the spark. He hadn’t batted in an Australian domestic match since this time last year, but he punished the Stars’ lacklustre bowling anyway. Worrall was smacked for a pair of boundaries, and Hastings was treated with similar contempt. When Christian joined in on the act by raising his fifty with some big hitting against Evan Gulbis, the Hurricanes had built an imposing total. An eventful last over brought two wickets and 16 runs with plenty of action in between, and the Hurricanes seemed to be safe against a Stars batting line-up that had struggled to make an impact.

The Stars didn’t start their chase well, with the Hurricanes bowling tightly and subduing Dunk and Peter Handscomb well. Handscomb was dismissed before he could have an impact, and while Dunk hit a series of boundaries against Clive Rose and Tymal Mills he never went on to greater things. It was Short who dismissed him after a pull shot went wrong, and James Faulkner was soon gone too after picking out the man on the square-leg boundary. The Stars were three down, and still a very long way from their target. Surely the Hurricanes could breath easy. Surely.

At this point Pietersen strode to the wicket to join fellow retiree Rob Quiney. Neither man had anything to lose, and a potentially dangerous period was coming up for the Hurricanes. Both sought to be carefree, but they could only take the odd boundary off the Hurricanes’ spinners, and the Stars were too far behind the eight ball for the occasional big hits to make an impression. Quiney was run out to end his final BBL innings, and the Hurricanes could finally relax. Now, surely, it was done.

Then Hastings decided to promote himself up the order. The required run rate was slipping out of the Stars’ control, and their captain attempted to break the game open. He succeeded. His previous innings in this Big Bash had been brief and eventful, full of big swings and embarrassing misses. Now, just when the Hurricanes needed a quiet few overs to seal the win, he came out and deposited Cameron Boyce over the boundary. Twice. In a sign of what was to come Pietersen slapped Mills for a pair of boundaries, and the Hurricanes were starting to get a little nervous.

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Last bow: Kevin Pietersen acknowledges the ovation after his last innings in the BBL.

Mills eventually removed Hastings for 20 off 6 balls, and the run rate slowed, but the Stars were in with a chance. Pietersen and Seb Gotch batted calmly without making major inroads, until Mills came on for his third over. At this point the English recruit had 1/29 from two overs, but Bailey backed him to make the breakthrough. He did, removing Pietersen with an excellent return catch. Unfortunately, the retiring star had already taken 18 runs from the first four balls of Mills’ over, and the damage was done.

The Stars still needed 29 from 18 balls, with three wickets in hand. Sensing a chance to end it, Bailey threw the ball to Archer. Throughout this season, Archer has made things happen. A stunning catch here. A run out there. A devastating spell of reverse-swinging yorkers thrown in. Now, when his team needed him, he made the wrong things happen. A yorker went horribly wrong, and the full toss was fired at Worrall’s midriff. The fast bowler could only slash at the ball, but it was going so fast the edge flew to the boundary. Then, with 20 needed from 13 balls, Gulbis hit him for six, and the Hurricanes had too many fielders outside the ring. No-ball. Free hit. It was a horrendous gaffe, and the Stars capitalised. They needed 12 off 12.

With the first ball of the last over, Worrall cut Christian through the field and it began to run away to the long boundary. Some Hurricanes chased, and the rest could only watch on with bated breath and an increasing sense of despair. The ball was still rolling as it hit the rope, completing the Hurricanes’ calamitous collapse. In the end, they got their finals place, with the Brisbane Heat never looking like toppling the Melbourne Renegades, but this loss will stick in the memory. It’s hard to say where it went wrong, but the fact that it did should be a major concern for the finals-bound but confidence-shattered Hurricanes.


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.

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.

Sixers lose again as Hurricanes survive Billings scare

Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Sixers
Hobart Hurricanes 170-6 (Short 42, Wade 41, Christian 28*, Abbott 27-3) def Sydney Sixers 165-4 (Billings 61*, Silk 45, Hughes 33, Mills 42-2) by 5 runs at Blundstone Arena

Tymal Mills had bowled brilliantly at the death, and the Sydney Sixers were facing the hardest possible equation as a result. Three balls remained. Three sixes were needed. Sam Billings was on strike, sitting deep in his crease to compensate for Mills’ extreme pace. The first ball was short, quick, and hit well, crossing the rope comfortably as Billings passed his fifty with little fanfare. The game was still alive, but not really. Then Mills erred, his slower ball landing perfectly for Billings to slog sweep him for a big six. One ball remained. Six runs were needed. Suddenly, Mills was under the pump, and Billings was 61 not out and in form. The romantic ending would have been for the Sixers to seal the win with another big hit. It didn’t happen, as Mills’ short slower ball managed to evade Billings’ desperate swing to seal a third consecutive win for the Hobart Hurricanes and consign the Sixers to a sixth straight defeat.

The Sixers started well, but D’Arcy Short and Matthew Wade combined for an excellent partnership as the Hurricanes recovered from the early loss of Alex Doolan. Wade provided the early momentum, taking full toll when Jackson Bird returned for a second over, and soon Short had found his form. Having thrown away centuries in his previous two innings he pounced when Johan Botha dropped short, and slapped Daniel Sams for an effortless four and a towering six when he overpitched. Then Wade began to show some aggression. Sean Abbott was hit for a pair of clinical fours, and Botha was hit through the off-side for four. The innings began to gain traction as Short’s brutal cover drive went to the fence, with both batsmen looking in excellent touch and the run rate climbing. Then it was over.

Wade was the first to depart, taking on Bird and picking out the man on the boundary. Then Short, two balls after flicking Abbott for six over the leg side, tried to loft him over mid-off and miscued. Suddenly, the Hurricanes had no set batsmen, and the wickets started to fall. George Bailey never looked settled, playing a reverse sweep but doing little else as he swung hard at Abbott and gave Botha catching practice at mid-off. When Ben McDermott, who had put one on the Blundstone Arena roof the over before, tried to go again and holed out, the Hurricanes were in big trouble.

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Man in form: D’Arcy Short hits another nice shot during his innings of 42.

Then they recovered to finish with a flourish. Simon Milenko was the catalyst, running down the wicket to hit Sams for four over mid-wicket before crunching him through the covers. At the other end, Dan Christian batted with a rare combination of innovation, consistency and power, with a pair of well-played cut shots combining with a ramp shot and a cleverly hit flick as the total began to swell. When an eventful last over ended with Christian blasting Sams for four back over his head just after Milenko’s well-hit six over extra cover, the Hurricanes had recovered from their slight hiccup through the middle to post a solid total of 170.

The chase got off to a topsy-turvy start, with the bowling alternating between expensive and miserly. Milenko began inauspiciously, overstepping with the first ball of the innings and seeing the resultant free hit soar off the bat of the out of sorts Jason Roy and land over the mid-wicket boundary, before the hosts recovered. Clive Rose had an immediate impact, removing Roy as the Englishman attempted to get him away through the covers and picked out a diving Bailey. Then Jofra Archer, the Hurricanes’ half-Barbadian, half-English, fully-entertaining all-rounder who has become something of a local hero, stepped up with yet another suffocating over, and Tymal Mills removed a hard-swinging Nic Maddinson after Rose’s second over was nowhere near as tidy as his first.

Through it all, Daniel Hughes was making his return from injury with quality and maturity, playing particularly fluent shots through the covers as he shepherded the Sixers to 2/45 from their first six. After the PowerPlay, however, Hughes couldn’t find any form as he looked to settle the innings alongside Jordan Silk. While Silk looked completely unfazed by the situation, Hughes showed signs of fatigue. A top-edged sweep and a very badly hit slog fell safe, but he fell playing an airy swish running down the wicket which resembled a surrender rather than a cricket shot. As the dot balls began to pile up, the asking rate climbed, and the Sixers were under serious pressure.

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Nervous moments: Sam Billings hits out during an innings which nearly took the Sixers across the line.

As Sam Billings came to the crease, the Sixers began to mount a bit of a fightback. Archer’s return to the attack was greeted by a perfect pull shot from Silk which flew over the square leg boundary, and Billings hit his first four with a crushing sweep shot against the otherwise economical Cameron Boyce. Christian’s third over was bookended by strokes of precision and power, with Silk hitting a perfectly placed cover drive for four and Billings slog sweeping the ball for six from well outside the off stump. 70 were required from 36 balls. Silk hit a similar six when Mills re-entered in the fifteenth over. 64 runs needed from 35 balls. Billings played a nonchalant ramp shot to the fine-leg boundary when Archer returned at a key juncture in the match. 53 needed off 29.

The Sixers couldn’t keep it going. Archer recovered well to keep the set batsmen tied down, and when Silk looked to blast Mills over long-on but couldn’t beat the fielder they were in trouble with 47 runs still needed from 21 deliveries. Even Billings’ streaky but effective late cut couldn’t put the visitors back in the box seat. He was their only hope, but his boundaries had dried up in the face of the Hurricanes’ slower balls. Then, suddenly, he found a bit of traction as Archer closed out his spell. A slower ball was muscled to the square leg boundary. Archer bounced him in frustration, and saw the miscued hook shot run too fine for a desperate Mills. When a well-executed yorker was squirted past point for a third consecutive four, the Sixers were right back in the game. The Hurricanes pulled things back well, with Christian taking advantage of some unsuccessful swinging from Ben Dwarshuis and putting the Sixers into a hole that Billings could not drag them out of. If the Sixers’ season wasn’t over before this game, it is now, as the Hurricanes’ rise continues with another solid victory.

Top 5
1. Sam Billings (Sydney Sixers)
Billings closed out his stint with the Sixers in a near-perfect manner, hitting the ball well from the off and very nearly shepherding his side to an unlikely victory. His calmness under pressure was top class, and his ability to score against the Hurricanes’ best gave them a few nervous moments towards the end. He ensured he leaves the BBL on a high note.
2. Dan Christian (Hobart Hurricanes)
Christian excelled for the Hurricanes with both bat and ball, closing out both innings with composure and class. He showed his vast experience when bowling at the death, and was very hard to get away with the game on the line. He dragged the Hurricanes to a total which was only just enough with some controlled hitting at the end, and made a great all-round contribution.
3. Sean Abbott (Sydney Sixers)
Abbott was the pick of the bowlers on both sides, claiming three wickets with some excellent bowling under pressure and finishing his spell with the Hurricanes in a bad position. He bowled with good accuracy and variety to collect the wickets of Short, Bailey and McDermott, and recovered well when he was targeted by the batsmen.
4. Matthew Wade (Hobart Hurricanes)
Wade combined well with Short to give the Hurricanes an excellent base, playing aggressively and putting the Sixers under pressure with plenty of boundaries. His brisk 41 was filled with quality shots, and allowed the run rate to climb while he was at the crease, and he kept as solidly as ever, making very few mistakes in the successful defence.
5. Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)
Silk was in excellent touch once again, falling just 5 runs short of a 50 and giving the Sixers a chance with his consistent batting through the middle overs. He pulled the ball particularly well, and was as fluent as ever around the ground as he began to make inroads with Billings. His fielding was excellent, and he is clearly one of the Sixers’ best at the moment.

Fresh start for Hurricanes as Short overpowers Thunder

Sydney Thunder vs Hobart Hurricanes
Hobart Hurricanes 189-3 (Short 97, McDermott 49*, Wade 27) def Sydney Thunder 180-8 (Buttler 81, Patterson 36, Watson 36, Boyce 14-2, Archer 42-2) by 9 runs at Spotless Stadium

If the Hobart Hurricanes had made a new year’s resolution, it would have been to improve on their dismal batting performance against the Sydney Thunder in the closing days of 2017. By virtue of some haphazard fixturing, they had their chance to make amends just two days later, against the same opposition. All that seemed to have changed was the fact that the match was being played in 2018, but the Hurricanes put in a vastly improved batting performance to sink the Thunder and claim their first win of the season.

It was D’Arcy Short who proved the matchwinner. He started his innings with some nice shots, and benefitted from some luck as an inside edge against Chris Green narrowly missed his off stump. The Hurricanes start was more subdued as Short slightly tempered his natural instincts, and Alex Doolan got himself bogged down before throwing his wicket away to Gurinder Sandhu. Sandhu closed his first over with a wicket maiden, and the Thunder looked to be in control. Then Short began to get going.

It was Matthew Wade who kicked off the onslaught that came just after the PowerPlay. Promoted to three despite his poor form with the bat, the deposed Australian wicketkeeper had started badly but got himself going with a big six against Arjun Nair. Short drilled Fawad Ahmed down the ground for six in the next over, and both cashed in again as Sandhu returned, pitched too short, and was smashed for two sixes. The Thunder mounted a slight recovery, with Short facing three dot balls with his score on 49 and Wade departing shortly afterwards, with Ahmed catching him out with a nice ball as he looked to slog sweep. The Hurricanes looked to have thrown away some of their early momentum.

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Big innings: D’Arcy Short hits to the on-side during his brilliant 97.

The turning point came when Shane Watson returned to the attack. His first over had been inexpensive, bogging Short down and delaying his efforts to reach 50. His first ball was a single for Ben McDermott, and then the fireworks began. Watson was hit for a towering six over mid-wicket, and smote twice through the covers. When he dropped short, Short capitalised and glided it over the top of third-man. The over went for 20, and when McDermott began to get going things began to spiral out of control. Boundaries flew on both sides of the wicket, as Short found himself in the nineties but unable to get the strike as McDermott hit four after four. Mitchell McClenaghan was disqualified from bowling after a horror start to the last over, and with Watson closing it out it looked as if both could reach their upcoming milestones. Neither could, with Short holing out for 97 and McDermott closing on 48 not out, but the damage was done.

The Thunder began their chase convincingly, as Jos Buttler and Kurtis Patterson found the fence well during the PowerPlay. Tymal Mills was expensive early as Patterson drove beautifully through the covers and Buttler played an extraordinary ramp shot for six, and both were able to get boundaries away off the economical Jofra Archer to close off the PowerPlay at 0/65. Then, through a cruel twist of fate, Patterson was forced to depart. His fluent innings was closed when Short, entering the attack, dropped Buttler onto the non-striker’s end stumps. It wasn’t really a catch, because it was hit far too hard for that, but the resultant deflection was just as damaging. Watson struggled to get going, and the Hurricanes had retaken some control.

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No clue: Ryan Gibson has his innings ended by a brilliant slower ball from Tymal Mills.

Watson began to build into his innings well after a slow start. He was denied a six by Dan Christian’s extraordinary bat back into the field of play, and proceeded to get himself in by drilling fours on either side of the wicket. He really got going against Clive Rose, with two fours and a six making for a big over, and then it was gone. Cameron Boyce was smacked very hard down the ground, but the shot rocketed straight to Doolan. When Callum Ferguson was dismissed the next ball, as Archer made amends for a shocking earlier drop by taking a nice catch, the Thunder were in trouble.

All they had in their favour was the presence of Buttler. He had benefitted from Archer’s horrendous drop as he skied one off Rose, and gone on to make his half-century just before Watson’s departure. Just as Boyce looked set for a double wicket maiden, he hit a big six off the last ball, and was the Thunder’s last hope. Ben Rohrer departed in the next over with a top edged pull shot, and while Archer was smacked for a six and a pair of fours, he also took the wicket of Nair for a golden duck. Buttler couldn’t get the strike as Ryan Gibson floundered against Mills before getting bowled by a wonderful dipping slower ball, and despite slapping the first ball of the next over for four through point, he just couldn’t do it alone. He was run out scrambling to get himself back on strike in the last over, his 81 in vain despite a pair of boundaries from Sandhu which raised hopes of a remarkable victory. The Hurricanes, just days after a crushing defeat against the same team, were just too good.

Top 5
1. D’Arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
Short was the undisputed star of the show, blazing away with timing and plenty of power to fall just three short of what would have been a thoroughly deserved century. He hit some great sixes over the leg side, and took the Thunder bowlers to task with clever footwork and clinical picking of gaps. He has got 2018 off to a perfect start, and will be looking to keep it going.
2. Jos Buttler (Sydney Thunder)
Buttler nearly did enough to guide the Thunder home despite a rapid loss of wickets at the other end. He looks to have found his touch in a big way, and combined his power forward of the wicket and his inventiveness to devastating effect. Unfortunately for the Thunder, he will only play one more game due to international duty, with it all over just as he starts to get going.
3. Ben McDermott (Hobart Hurricanes)
McDermott started slowly but exploded in the last few overs to get himself to an important 48 not out and give the Hurricanes the impetus they needed to post an imposing target. He looked very strong hitting down the ground, and finally seems to have found some much-needed form at this early stage of the season.
4. Cameron Boyce (Hobart Hurricanes)
Boyce was the pick of the Hurricanes bowlers, taking a pair of massive wickets and halting the Thunder’s momentum at a crucial stage in the match. His removal of Watson and Ferguson gave the Hurricanes the late burst they needed to complete their defence, and his work in keeping the runs down after a massive PowerPlay should not be discounted.
5. Kurtis Patterson (Sydney Thunder)
Scored a very nice 36 to get the Thunder off to a rapid start, driving well through the covers and supporting Buttler’s hard-hitting assault with some excellent touch. He was very unlucky to get run out, and looks ready to step up when Buttler leaves a hole in the Thunder’s batting.

Thunder spinners rumble hapless Hurricanes

Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder 166-5 (Buttler 67, Watson 41, Rose 20-2) def Hobart Hurricanes 109 (Doolan 34, Archer 25*, Ahmed 14-2, Nair 17-2, McClenaghan 19-2, Sandhu 29-2, Green 30-2) by 57 runs at University of Tasmania Stadium

As Alex Doolan and D’Arcy Short walked out to open the Hobart Hurricanes’ pursuit of the 167 set by the Sydney Thunder, the hosts could be forgiven for feeling optimistic. Thanks to some effective late overs bowling they had limited the Thunder fairly well in Launceston’s first ever Big Bash game, and they had given themselves a good chance of getting their first win of the season. In the last over of the match, Tymal Mills edged a ball from Gurinder Sandhu onto his thigh pad and watched it rebound onto his stumps, concluding an innings, and a night, the Hurricanes would like to forget.

The chase started well enough. Doolan hit a nice four against Chris Green, and Short took an immediate liking to Sandhu when he came on for the second over, hitting two fours against shortish balls and hitting a full one beautifully for a nice six. It was as good as it got for the Hurricanes. Short was bowled the next over as he looked to take on Mitchell McClenaghan, getting a slight inside edge onto his stumps. Ben McDermott was next to go, advancing down the wicket against Sandhu, swiping across the line, and, unsurprisingly, hitting the ball straight up for Jos Buttler to take a nice catch. The Hurricanes were 2/44 after the PowerPlay, and their momentum had stalled.

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Brain fade: George Bailey plays an ill-fated lofted cover drive during the Hurricanes’ collapse.

Then George Bailey went out. Bailey had a good chance to lead from the front even though he looked in poor form. When Fawad Ahmed flighted a ball up, he had many options available, such as trying to hit through a gap along the ground or bunting it down the ground for a single. He chose to go inside out over cover, and was caught on the fence. Arjun Nair removed Matthew Wade the next over, with the out-of-form keeper surrendering meekly with a hard-handed push straight back to the bowler. Cameron Boyce, promoted as a pinch hitter, was nearly stumped first ball and miscued a slog sweep on his second, gifting Ahmed another wicket.

Doolan had witnessed the carnage from the other end, and then decided to join in by playing yet another ill-fated slog and picking out Green perfectly. Clive Rose entered the action and was lucky to survive when he was beaten by Ahmed, with Buttler somehow failing to complete a simple stumping thanks to an inability to take off the bails. Neither Ahmed nor Nair would add to their tallies of two wickets apiece, but their efforts as both hammer and anvil all but killed off the match. The Hurricanes only reached 100 through the efforts of Rose and Jofra Archer, the former showing better technique than most of the specialist batsmen and the latter hitting the ball with plenty of power despite a series of dodgy bats, but they were never going to get close. The end of Mills’ dismal occupation of the crease heralded the cessation of play, but the game had been over for some time.

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In control: Jos Buttler hits another one out of the middle on his way to 67.

The Thunder had built their total on the back of Buttler and Shane Watson, with Watson playing a mature supporting innings while Buttler blasted his way to fifty with some big hitting. Archer removed Kurtis Patterson early courtesy of Bailey’s one-handed diving catch, but Buttler was unfazed as he played himself in before exploding in the twelfth over. Tom Rogers was the unfortunate victim of Buttler’s brutal assault, with four big sixes testing the outer limits of the University of Tasmania Stadium as he moved from 36 to 62 in the space of six balls. He was out shortly afterwards, bowled by Rose as he looked to give himself room, and the innings never reached such lofty heights again. Watson’s innings ended with a senseless piece of running, with the Thunder captain dawdling up the pitch as an outfield throw came in at his end. It cost him a 50, and the Hurricanes closed the innings out well thanks to some great bowling from Archer, Mills and Rose.

None of it mattered, however, as the Hurricanes lodged one of the worst batting performances of the season to raise concerns as to whether they can beat anyone. The Thunder showed signs of improvement, but it remains to be seen whether they can repeat the feat against the sterner opposition they are sure to face further down the track.

Top 5
1. Jos Buttler (Sydney Thunder)
Buttler almost won the game off his own bat, playing himself in well before exploding with a remarkable burst of timing and power to give his side a timely boost. He hit Rogers for a series of massive sixes, and looked like he could easily score a century before he was dismissed. Kept well and took a nice high catch, but made a horrible gaffe to gift Rose a reprieve.
2. Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder)
Ahmed took 2/14 from his four overs in a remarkably consistent spell which all but ended the Hurricanes’ resistance. Bowled perfectly in conjunction with Nair, and was very unlucky not to finish with three after a brilliant spell of bowling. Left the field late, and the Thunder will hope he is still available.
3. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair bagged a pair of nice wickets to remove Doolan and Wade, and showed his class and variation by spinning the ball both ways and causing massive problems. He wasn’t hit for any boundaries in a four-over spell, and, at 19 years of age, looks to be an exciting prospect for Australian cricket.
4. Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
Archer showed a bit of nonchalant class with both bat and ball, hitting it fairly well for an unbeaten 25 and providing some very economical bowling. He extracted sharp bounce from the Launceston pitch, and the only knock on his performance was the excess of nonchalance in the field which led to a dropped catch over the rope for six.
5. Clive Rose (Hobart Hurricanes)
Rose is not really known for his all-round talents, but he unearthed some hitherto undiscovered cricketing prowess to bag a pair of key wickets and play some neat shots in a determined innings of 13. He was the pick of the Hurricanes’ bowlers and showed excellent calmness under pressure to dismiss a rampaging Buttler.

Bravo and White star against lacklustre Hurricanes

Hobart Hurricanes vs Melbourne Renegades
Hobart Hurricanes 164-8 (Short 34, McDermott 34, Doolan 26, Bailey 25, Bravo 28-5) lost to Melbourne Renegades 165-3 (White 79*, Harris 50, Archer 17-2) by 7 wickets at Blundstone Arena

In the corresponding fixture last season, the Melbourne Renegades managed to throw away a near-certain victory, failing to defend a mammoth 222. This time around, they were in cruise control, never looking like losing from the moment the Hobart Hurricanes posted a below-par 164, attaining the target with 9 balls to spare and cruising home on the back of Cameron White’s composed 79 and Dwayne Bravo’s brilliant five-wicket haul. For the Hurricanes, it was a day of missed opportunities, as the Renegades were just a cut above.

It was hard to tell which aspect of the Hurricanes’ play was more disappointing. Their innings was one of opportunities squandered, a fast start giving way to a mediocre finish. D’Arcy Short and Alex Doolan came out of the blocks quickly, hitting Tom Cooper with an impunity that few managed last season and playing some lovely shots. Short had soon found his timing, and the ball was flying off the middle of the bat. A short one from Jack Wildermuth was helped over fine-leg, and he was smashed through the covers when he pitched up. Another excellent cover drive, this time off a Kane Richardson full toss, allowed the Hurricanes to keep building. Then Aaron Finch threw Bravo the ball.

Bravo was the undisputed star of the show. He entered the attack with the Hurricanes cruising on 0/48 from 5, and immediately slowed the scoring rate with his probing slower balls. He gained his first wicket when Doolan slashed at a wide one, providing an easy catch for Brad Hogg. When he returned, in the 14th over, Ben McDermott’s innings came to an end, as the build up of pressure proved too much for a player who had smashed Hogg for three consecutive boundaries just overs before. Bravo’s use of slower balls befitted his vast experience on the T20 stage, and when the Hurricanes needed runs desperately, they just couldn’t get him away. Instead, he got them out, removing Jofra Archer, Cameron Boyce and Matthew Wade in the last over.

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Job well done: Dwayne Bravo celebrates after collecting his fifth wicket.

The rest of the bowlers backed him up well. Hogg, the 46-year-old who came out of retirement when the Big Bash began and had too much fun to stop, removed Short, breaking through his defences and leaving him so plumb that Hogg was celebrating with his trademark boyish enthusiasm before the finger was raised. That was as good as it got for Hogg, but some accurate bowling from Wildermuth and Mohammad Nabi stalled the momentum of McDermott and George Bailey, with Nabi leaving the Hurricanes skipper stranded halfway up the pitch as Tim Ludeman completed an easy stumping. Dan Christian and Wade couldn’t pick up the run rate either, and the Hurricanes were limited to a below par score they never really looked like defending.

Whereas the batting was a disappointment given the strong start, the bowling was just bad. Things started well enough, with Renegades captain Finch falling to Clive Rose with the second ball of the innings, Rose tossing the ball up and taking a top edge which soared into the Hobart sky. Matthew Wade took the catch, setting himself in the middle of the pitch, and the Hurricanes appeared to have a chance. Then White and Marcus Harris ran away with it against some questionable bowling. Tymal Mills, billed as one of the quickest bowlers in the world despite a congenital back condition, managed to land the nine balls of his first over all over the pitch, going for 13 runs. As White steadied the ship with brutal efficiency, Harris provided a touch of class, his crisp cover drive off Rose a particularly neat shot.

White and Harris continued to march along purposefully against the inconsistent Hurricanes attack. Mills was erratic, and while he gradually improved he was not at his best. Aaron Summers, drafted in for his raw pace, bowled like Mitchell Johnson or Shaun Tait on a bad day, routinely hitting speeds around 150 kph but failing to show any consistency or control. Rose was expensive after his perfect start, with White using his feet well to hit him around. Boyce was barely given a chance, making it unclear why they had bothered to pick him in the first place. Short was slapped, and Christian couldn’t find a good area either. The Hurricanes showed few positive signs as White and Harris clinically batted them out of the game.

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Big wicket: Jofra Archer celebrates after picking up the wicket of Tom Cooper.

Archer appeared the only Hurricanes bowler capable of having an impact, and raised faint hopes with a double wicket maiden which saw Harris depart for 50. Archer bowled with poise and control, with a graceful and economical action which makes it look like he is only giving 50%. He was the Hurricanes’ best by a long way, but could not save his side as White and Brad Hodge knocked off the last 48 runs without breaking a sweat. White picked up a deserved not out following a composed and powerful innings and Hodge showed some great form in hitting his second delivery for six and finding the middle with ease. As the game meandered to its eventual conclusion, it was hard to escape the thought that this could be a very long season for the Hurricanes.

Top 5
1. Dwayne Bravo (Melbourne Renegades)
Bravo used his slower balls to devastating effect, compensating for his drop in pace by out-thinking the batsmen and building pressure every time he entered the attack. He took the big wickets of Doolan and McDermott, and concluded the innings with a well-delivered last over that closed out a top-quality spell.
2. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White was in brilliant form, displaying exemplary patience and excellent power. Combined beautifully with Harris in a partnership of 113, and batted through to the end to keep his wicket intact. His composure under pressure bodes well for the season ahead.
3. Marcus Harris (Melbourne Renegades)
Harris looked more fluent than White, and was in top form as he compiled a very nice 50. His driving was particularly strong, and he looks to be in excellent form. If Finch can get going their opening partnerships could be very damaging.
4. Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
Archer bowls with remarkable ease, and deservedly picked up a pair of wickets. Had perfect control over his bowling and was able to extract plenty of bounce from the pitch with his upright bowling action. If he keeps this up, both England and the West Indies will be looking ruefully at his progress.
5. D’Arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
The less that is said about Short’s bowling the better, but he found plenty of form with the bat and looked set for a big score before his untimely dismissal. Hit some very powerful shots on both sides of the wicket, and had the ball flying off the bat.