Rashid nearly crashes farewell party, but Scorchers just keep winning

Perth Scorchers vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 137-6 (Weatherald 56, Carey 25, Richardson 23-2, Kelly 31-2, Bresnan 34-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 141-6 (Voges 56*, Bancroft 49, Rashid 20-3) by 4 wickets at the WACA

For seven seasons of the BBL, the Perth Scorchers have called the WACA their home. It has hosted more BBL finals than any other ground, and the Scorchers’ loyal fans have witnessed some great moments. Now, it was in its final hours as a Big Bash ground, with the glitzy new multi-purpose stadium that is set to replace it as the home of West Australian cricket looming large in the background. On the field, it was a battle of the two best attacks in the league, and the Scorchers saw off the top-of-the-table Adelaide Strikers by following a pattern their home fans had seen many times before. Sure, Rashid Khan gave them a bit of a scare with a destructive spell of leg-spin bowling, but they were always going to get home. It was close, but it just wouldn’t have been fitting any other way.

With a finals berth already sealed, Strikers coach Jason Gillespie saw an opportunity to tinker with his previously successful batting order. It backfired. Alex Carey was demoted from his usual opening position, and the Strikers started slowly against the typically miserly Scorchers attack. Jono Dean, coming in with a blue bat in hand and a long mane of dark brown hair protruding from the back of his helmet, never got going before swinging hard and bunting a catch to Mitchell Johnson at mid-off. Jake Weatherald was subdued despite hitting his first two balls for six. Colin Ingram, days after hitting a devastating 68 against the Melbourne Renegades, was tied down before he was dismissed after edging a slow short ball on his hip straight to Cameron Bancroft. Jonathan Wells batted time without making an impact, and fell after diverting a wide ball from Tim Bresnan straight into Johnson’s safe hands.

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Death rattle: Alex Carey’s entertaining cameo comes to an end at the hands of Jhye Richardson.

Weatherald went on to register his second fifty of the season, but he departed to an excellent Matthew Kelly yorker and the Strikers found themselves in even deeper trouble. The opener had borne the brunt of the run-scoring as his teammates struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack, and now the Strikers looked particularly vulnerable. Then Carey came in, and batted with freedom and power. He cleared the front leg and swung hard, and he got a few clean shots away to put the Scorchers under pressure and make a mockery of his demotion. His cameo was all-too-short, and the Strikers meagre total never looked good enough. The WACA crowd had seen this script before, and there was only one way the Scorchers’ tenure at the ground was going to end: with a Scorchers victory underpinned by their dominant bowling unit.

Unfortunately, no-one let Rashid know. It wasn’t too much of an issue when Sam Whiteman and Michael Klinger managed to pick out fielders in the inner circle. The Scorchers had ridden out such early troubles on countless occasions, and it was just a slight tremor induced by the tall, fast and downright dangerous Billy Stanlake. Then Rashid sensed an opportunity, and the loss of the openers mattered a bit more. Hilton Cartwright made the costly mistake of taking the Afghan leg-spinner on, and paid the price as his poorly-hit slog found the fielder at mid-wicket. Then Ashton Turner, so often a hero for the Scorchers with his brutal hitting, was beaten by a brilliant googly and hit on the thigh. He was given out lbw, and Rashid ran past everyone in a jubilant celebration. The Scorchers had lost 4 wickets in 5 overs as the tremor became a collapse. This wasn’t meant to happen, and a stunned silence fell over the home crowd.

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Nervous moments: Rashid Khan celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Ashton Turner for a golden duck.

Then Bancroft and Adam Voges stepped up to mount a recovery. It’s just how the Scorchers do things. Bancroft, who had come in after Whiteman helped a poor ball from Michael Neser straight to Stanlake at fine-leg, had witnessed the collapse from the relative safety of the non-striker’s end. Now, in conjunction with his captain, he steadied the ship. It wasn’t quick, or the kind of blazing counterattack one might expect from a less-mature team. Instead, it was a partnership which epitomised the Scorchers’ style: no bluster, no panic, just a calm response to the problem at hand. Together, Bancroft and Voges began to make headway. The ball began to find the boundary with increasing regularity, and the runs were flowing at a dangerous rate for the Strikers. Then the errors started to seep into their game. The bowlers made slight errors which were punished by the two set batsmen. Rashid, fielding at long-off, was far too casual in his attempts to collect Bancroft’s rolling off-drive, and it slipped through his legs for four. Ingram decided to bring himself on, and the batsmen hit around with little fuss. The Scorchers were in control.

Then Rashid re-entered the attack. He had bowled two more overs since his devastating pair of early wickets, keeping the runs down but failing to break through the Scorchers’ solid defences. Now, just three balls were left in his spell, and Bancroft, on 49, received a floating ball outside off stump. Predictably, he sought to drive, leaving his defence completely exposed as Rashid’s perfect googly crashed into his stumps. Rashid, arms outstretched in celebration, gave him a contemptuous stare as he trudged from the ground. When Ashton Agar struggled to get going before being undone by an unexpected Ben Laughlin bouncer, the Scorchers still needed 14 to win off 10 balls. It was far from over. That was before Voges stepped up. He had taken a pair of boundaries off the eighteenth over, and when Neser started the last over with a full toss it was clinically dispatched for the first six of the innings. Voges brought up his fifty with the shot, and the home crowd could finally relax when Bresnan closed it out two balls later. In the end, the Scorchers ended their time at the WACA doing what they do best: winning.

Top 5
1. Adam Voges (Perth Scorchers)
Voges came in after the Scorchers’ top order had collapsed, but his calmness under pressure allowed his side to come away with the win. He put the rare bad balls away well, and his ability to turn the strike over ensured the Scorchers continued to progress steadily in their chase. His unbeaten half-century against a very strong attack comes at a good time with finals just around the corner, and he deserves credit for playing through the pain of a dislocated finger.
2. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
It was previously thought that this would be Rashid’s last game of the tournament, and the Strikers will be breathing a sigh of relief that this is no longer the case. He only furthered his reputation with another masterful performance, spinning through the Scorchers’ middle-order and creating plenty of problems. His ability to turn the ball both ways was on full display, and he looks to have hit top form.
3. Jhye Richardson (Perth Scorchers)
Richardson put in his best bowling performance of the season to peg the Strikers back time and again, landing the ball exactly where he wanted it and collecting a pair of key wickets at the death. After a couple of poor games prior to his departure for international duty he seems to have regained his touch, and his pace will be a handful in the finals.
4. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft fell just one run short of his half-century, but he deserves credit for his combination with Voges in a match-winning partnership. He hit the ball solidly when he looked to attack, and he put some pressure back on the Strikers as his innings progressed and he found the fence more often. He will be very happy with his performances since coming into the Scorchers’ team.
5. Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Weatherald was the only Strikers batsman to find any real form, batting calmly and progressing to a confident half-century with some powerful shots. He started his innings with a pair of sixes, and he batted calmly even when his partners struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack. He showed an excellent temperament, which should hold him in good stead as the season comes to a close.

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Adelaide struck out by consistent Scorchers

Adelaide Strikers vs Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers 112 (Carey 44, Agar 19-3, Kelly 13-2, Bresnan 14-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 114-4 (Cartwright 47*, Agar 26*, Neser 18-2) by 6 wickets at Traeger Park

The Perth Scorchers needed 24 runs off 28 balls, as Hilton Cartwright looked to take Peter Siddle on over mid-wicket. The ball was hit solidly, but the boundary was just too long. The Adelaide Strikers, having made a good fist of defending their lacklustre total of 112, had the break they needed. Then chaos ensued. Siddle’s foot was over the line, and the well-set Cartwright was recalled to face the free hit. It was the pivotal moment in the match, as Siddle’s slightly errant delivery stride allowed Cartwright to hit a straight six and all but end the Strikers’ hopes of winning the top-of-the-table clash with a dramatic comeback. The win was sealed with 10 balls left, as Cartwright carved Michael Neser over cover to finish on an unbeaten 47.

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Perfect landscape: The backdrop for Alice Springs’ first ever Big Bash game couldn’t have been nicer.

The stage was set for a big game as the first-placed Strikers faced off against the second-placed Scorchers in the first ever BBL game in Alice Springs. It was a battle of the best bowling attacks in the league, but the Strikers started well with the bat. Alex Carey and Jake Weatherald batted through the PowerPlay without losing a wicket, even if the going was tough against the ageless Mitchell Johnson and the too-often injured Joel Paris. When Carey hit a pair of sixes over mid-wicket to close out the sixth over the classy wicketkeeper-batsman looked to have found his touch, and the Scorchers seemed to be in trouble. Then Weatherald missed a sweep shot against the part-time spin of Will Bosisto and was out lbw, kicking off a collapse which derailed the Strikers’ innings.

Colin Ingram, standing in as captain, was the next man to fall, taking on Ashton Agar but finding Bosisto on the square leg boundary. Then Jonathan Wells was caught in no-man’s-land after looking for an adventurous single, and not even a fumble from Cameron Bancroft could save him as the Scorchers’ keeper made up for his slight hiccup by flying through the air to catch him short. Then Carey went too, chipping a catch to Paris off the bowling of Matthew Kelly to leave the Strikers in trouble at 4/80. The Scorchers had the opening they needed, and the rest of the Strikers batsmen barely raised a finger to halt the slide. Johnson’s brilliant one-handed diving catch diverted some attention from the nondescript shot Jake Lehmann played to get out, as Agar’s full toss was hit to short fine-leg off the back of the bat. Both Jono Dean and Neser holed out to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket, and the tail offered no resistance as Tim Bresnan and Paris cleaned them up.

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Steady hand: Hilton Cartwright plays calmly during his match-winning innings.

The target of 113 shouldn’t have been too much of a test for the Scorchers, but they got off to a bad start in chasing it. Bosisto was lucky to survive his first ball after a fine edge went unnoticed by the umpire, but he had little impact as he picked out Peter Siddle at mid-on. Neser collected the second wicket as Michael Klinger found mid-off with a poorly-executed off-drive, and the Scorchers were suddenly under pressure on an oppressive Northern Territory summer’s day. Cameron Bancroft and Cartwright began to steady the ship, but when Bancroft went too hard against Siddle and stand-in skipper Ashton Turner was bowled by the irrepressible Rashid Khan’s unpickable googly, the Scorchers were 4/43 and a massive comeback was on the cards.

It was not to be, as Cartwright and Agar batted steadily to stem the flow of wickets while the scoreboard ticked over. More wind went out of the Strikers’ sails with every wicketless over, as they were methodically batted out of the game. The total was just not big enough, and when Cartwright hit Siddle for a pair of sixes either side of his very near miss the chase was all but complete. Neither Cartwright nor Agar gave another chance as the remaining runs were knocked off without event, and the Scorchers reclaimed their position at the top of the table with a win over their nearest rivals. It was a typical Scorchers-style victory, based around a dominant bowling performance and raising some uncomfortable questions about the Strikers batting in the absence of Travis Head. The Strikers just didn’t score enough runs, and will need to turn it around before entering the finals.

Top 5
1. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was in top form with both bat and ball, contributing to the Strikers’ collapse with a series of middle-overs wickets and closing out a tense chase with a mature innings alongside Cartwright. He appears to have developed greater all-round consistency, and his ability to keep a cool head under pressure has become one of his strengths.
2. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright played the kind of middle-order innings the Scorchers needed, showing plenty of power and providing a steady hand throughout a tense run chase. He started slowly, but played all the bowlers with confidence and ended the match just short of his half-century. He took a pair of nice catches in the first innings of a strong performance.
3. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid was the most potent member of the Strikers’ attack, forcing the Scorchers into a defensive mindset with his ability to turn the ball both ways and removing Turner with a ripping googly all the same. He threatened the batsmen with every ball he bowled in his most economical performance yet, and continues to go from strength to strength.
4. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey was the only batsman who made batting look easy on a difficult wicket, breezing to 44 with a series of nice shots. His pair of sixes against the otherwise tidy Paris were particularly well-struck, and he was the only Strikers player to make a significant contribution with bat in hand. He was as tidy as ever with the gloves, making no errors.
5. Matthew Kelly (Perth Scorchers)
Kelly took the big wicket of Carey and picked up where he left off following an impressive debut against the Thunder. He showed plenty of maturity to keep things tight after entering the attack with the Scorchers in a strong position, and he looks like another solid prospect from the Scorchers production line.

Stars fail to shine as Strikers cruise home

Adelaide Strikers vs Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 151-6 (Maxwell 60, Stoinis 39) lost to Adelaide Strikers 152-2 (Carey 59*, Head 53) by 8 wickets at Adelaide Oval

Adam Zampa pitched the ball up, and Alex Carey slog swept it hard and flat. The ball just kept travelling, as it flew into the gap on the leg-side. It landed metres outside the boundary, and, just like that, it was over. The Adelaide Strikers had won with little fuss, and left the Melbourne Stars wondering what they can salvage from a campaign that is quickly becoming a smouldering wreck. In this game, they benefitted from Marcus Stoinis’ power and an excellent innings from Glenn Maxwell. They bowled well as a team. None of it mattered.

The Stars have tried everything to halt their slide. They have been berated, told to go about their business differently, and there have been plenty of players dropped. None of it has worked. Not for the first time, an early collapse was at the heart of their defeat. Their problems started before the toss, with Luke Wright absent after a late-night trip to the bathroom went wrong and he did his back. When the PowerPlay was finished with the Stars at 3/34, makeshift opener Stoinis was the last man remaining from a top order which fell down like a house of cards.

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Big hitting: Glenn Maxwell swings hard during his 60.

Ben Dunk was the first to depart, attempting to loft one over Ben Laughlin at mid-off and failing in his efforts. Then Kevin Pietersen, fresh from announcing that this BBL season will be his last, played an innings which was short on substance but not in entertainment value. He flicked Billy Stanlake to the boundary with one leg in the air, and then survived some terrible running between the wickets only to get himself bowled for 5. His attempt to give himself room and waft at a straight ball gave the impression that Pietersen has given up. Peter Handscomb, wearing a shirt upon which his name was misspelled, faced only five balls before skying a pull shot against Ben Laughlin with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

Stoinis had been motoring along nicely at the other end, and when Stanlake returned for the seventh over he played him with ease and brutal power. He had flown to 39 out of his side’s meagre 51. Then he departed too, taking on the consistent Rashid Khan and picking out the man on the boundary perfectly. At this point Maxwell, who had entered with Handscomb’s dismissal, took over. In conjunction with Seb Gotch he played a mature innings, giving the Stars something to defend. He began his innings with an early boundary, a cut shot through backward point for four. For some reason, the Strikers never put anyone on the point boundary, as he continued to score through point and third man with alarming frequency. Michael Neser was cut through a miniscule gap in the in-field and slapped for six over cover. Peter Siddle was run down to third man. Rashid was reverse swept over the two fielders placed on the ring. Stanlake was the victim of a thick outside edge which ran unimpeded to the boundary. Maxwell brought up fifty with three more runs through third man, but didn’t last much longer. With his departure, the innings fizzled out. John Hastings hit a big six off the penultimate ball of the innings, but 6/151 was an underwhelming return.

The Strikers’ pursuit was a steady one, as the hosts never looked threatened by the Stars’ bowling attack. Early progress was slow, but Jake Weatherald and Carey had soon begun to find the boundary, with Carey’s series of drives particularly easy on the eye. Weatherald departed just after the PowerPlay as he sought to sweep Maxwell and fell victim to a sharp stumping from Handscomb. At this point Travis Head came to the crease to join Carey, and the Stars were methodically batted out of the game.

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Balance: Travis Head hits the ball while standing on one leg during his brilliant 53.

Head’s innings was perfectly paced from start to finish, and ended any faint hopes the Stars may have had. He started slowly, and initially the boundaries dried up as Carey also struggled to find the rope. As his innings moved forward, however, he was able to find the fence with greater regularity. He took a liking to Stoinis, hitting a crisp back foot drive against his medium pace and following it up with his first six, which hit Hastings’ rock hard hands at deep mid-wicket and flew over the boundary. As the target came within striking distance, he began to accelerate rapidly. He hit Scott Boland through a tiny gap between cover and mid-off while balancing on one leg and advancing down the wicket, and proceeded to hit another flat pull shot for six over mid-wicket. Stoinis returned, and Head hit a six over long-off and an edged four through third man to bring up 50. He was out next ball, but he had batted the Stars out of the game.

The rest of the chase was completed fairly comfortably, as Carey reached his half-century and Colin Ingram came in and looked to close out the win as quickly as possible. Like Head, he used Stoinis as a punching bag with a massive six and a well-hit four, assuaging any late nerves the Strikers may have had. As the game wound down he was dropped twice, but this was more a postscript which symbolised the Stars’ many issues than a decisive moment in a contest that was reaching an inevitable end. The Strikers found things too easy against a Stars side containing too many passengers, and with this loss all but confirming the Stars’ non-presence in the finals they will have a lot of thinking to do about how they are going to take something out of their catastrophic campaign.

Top 5
1. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head’s innings was perfectly paced and set up the chase brilliantly for the Strikers. He led from the front in compiling a half-century, and some of the boundaries he hit towards the end of his innings were ridiculous shots. He showed a maturity which bodes well for the future, and continued to show his well-honed captaincy skills.
2. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell played a very nice innings to give the Stars a fighting chance, and bowled well to pick up the big wicket of Weatherald. He was especially prolific through point, and while he showed some of his inventiveness he seems to have mostly shelved his unorthodox style in favour of a more determined approach. Time will tell whether it works, but the early results are promising if not as destructive.
3. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted through the innings and was the perfect counterpoint to Head’s aggression, keeping everything going steadily and batting very maturely as the Strikers ran down the target. His glovework was as steady as ever, and his consistent presence with both bat and gloves has allowed the Strikers to move towards the upper reaches of the table.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid’s quality is highlighted by the fact that he was the best bowler on either side despite putting in his worst performance of the season so far. For the first time this season he failed to take two wickets in the match, but his removal of Stoinis and ability to beat the in-form Maxwell on both sides of the bat meant that he was still as dangerous as ever. He barely bowls a bad ball.
5. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was the only member of the Stars’ top-order who stood up, and along with Maxwell provided the base for their total. He hit the ball well and looked completely at home while others faltered, and although he was dismissed when he looked set for a destructive half-century he can take pride in his performance. He struggled with the ball, but picked up the wicket of Head and should have had Ingram with the last ball of his spell.

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.

Temperamental Sixers fall short as Strikers march on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder wilt against dominant Strikers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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