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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stars battered, bruised and bottom after Sixers romp home

Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Sixers
Melbourne Stars 128-7 (Maxwell 28, Faulkner 28, Lyon 18-3, Abbott 35-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 129-2 (Maddinson 62, Hughes 49*) by 8 wickets at the MCG

For six seasons, the Melbourne Stars have been perennial BBL title challengers, never failing to make the finals and recovering from some sticky situations to scrape into the top four. They won’t make finals this time. Of course, this fact had been clear long before their emphatic defeat at the hands of the Sydney Sixers ended all mathematical possibility of a seventh straight finals appearance, but a convincing defeat in the bottom-of-the-table clash was a fitting way to seal a season that never got off the ground. As Nic Maddinson made the Stars’ dismal total look even worse with a remarkable display of power, it was hard not to be pessimistic about the home team’s future prospects.

The Stars’ woes, as ever, started with their batting. Luke Wright, for years the team’s dependable opening batsman, has had a torrid time of things in his seventh BBL campaign. On the pitch, he hasn’t converted a series of half-promising starts, and his season was interrupted after he slipped during a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Here, he was hit on the helmet twice by Ben Dwarshuis before throwing away his wicket with an ungainly slash. Kevin Pietersen is in his last season in the Big Bash, and is well into the twilight of his career. After making an aggressive start, he added to his tally of disappointing contributions as he targeted Nathan Lyon and picked out the man on the mid-wicket boundary. Through all of this, Ben Dunk had been attempting to build an innings at the other end. Dunk’s season has been the most disappointing of the lot. He came to the Stars after finishing last year as the tournament’s leading scorer, and his presence was meant to lift them to an elusive title. Instead, he has provided a run of outs which has left the Stars in a precarious position every time they have played. The run of outs continued, and he nicked one through to Peter Nevill the ball after Pietersen’s departure. Lyon’s two wickets had shattered the Stars’ increasingly fragile top-order, and they were reeling at 3/31 after the PowerPlay.

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Celebration time: Peter Nevill tosses the ball up in the air to mark the removal of Glenn Maxwell.

Then Glenn Maxwell came to the crease, and continued an up-and-down season with an up-and-down innings. Maxwell has been the Stars’ form batsman, and showed his touch with a trio of sixes. If the Stars were going to go on and get some kind of total from this innings, they needed Maxwell to perform. Then, he threw it all away with a typically frustrating shot which rendered his contribution a disappointment. It was as if he was giving Nevill catching practice in running one straight to the keeper off Sean Abbott, and it left the Stars in big trouble. Now, the Stars needed Peter Handscomb. This time last season, Handscomb had made his Test and ODI debuts and seemed to have established himself as a fixture in the Australian middle order in just four Tests. Now, he is out of the Test team, does not look like returning in the immediate future, and can’t find a run at domestic level. He had struggled to get going in partnership with Maxwell, and departed the next over. Lyon tossed it up, and Handscomb chipped his former Test teammate’s regulation off-break straight to Jordan Silk at long-on. It was a meek dismissal, and it left the Stars sitting on a precarious 5/78.

They recovered to 128 off their 20 overs, with Evan Gulbis and James Faulkner scoring some valuable runs as the innings drew to a close, but neither could really score quickly enough to trouble the Sixers. When Carlos Brathwaite dismissed Faulkner and ran out Gulbis with the last two balls of the innings, the Stars had limped to a total that was never going to be enough. Joe Denly was out early, and the Stars bowled well in the PowerPlay, but they just didn’t have enough on the board. Then Maddinson stepped up, and the game was over in no time at all. He had come in after the departure of Denly, and his first ball was worked for a single. His second was to be bowled by the Stars’ captain, John Hastings, who had just brought himself into the attack for the last over of the PowerPlay. Hastings has had a rough season, never finding form with the ball and having no answers when the heat has been on in the field. Against the Brisbane Heat, he dropped Chris Lynn with the third ball of the innings, and watched as Lynn compiled an unbeaten half-century. Now, maybe, he could snag the wicket of Maddinson and give his side some hope.

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The end: The Stars’ run of finals appearances comes to a comical end as Evan Gulbis (front) and Ben Dunk collide and the Sixers complete the winning run.

Hastings’ first ball was not in a bad area, landing on a full length and on a good enough line to give a new batsman like Maddinson some trouble. Instead, Maddinson catapulted it into the MCG stands. The ball sailed off his bat, and flew over the massive mid-wicket boundary. At this point, the Stars were done. The Sixers still needed 85 runs to win, but Maddinson’s six was so emphatic it was a perfect herald of the end of an era for the Stars. Maddinson continued his onslaught as the game went on. He was nearly caught by a colluding Daniel Worrall and Jackson Coleman, but Worrall’s foot was on the ground as he threw it back in for Coleman to complete the dismissal. It was Maddinson’s second six. His third was another remarkable shot, lofting Maxwell inside-out over cover with contemptuous ease. Then, on 30, he gave a chance. It was Handscomb who missed the stumping, as Maddinson advanced, couldn’t connect, and was only saved by the keeper’s fumble standing up to the stumps. Maddinson just kept going. Daniel Fallins, the young leg-spinner brought in as the Stars’ season wasted away, was smoked down the ground, and reverse swept as Maddinson brought up his fifty. Soon, he was gone, trying one big shot too many and allowing Dunk to make a catch. The contest had been gone long before that.

Daniel Hughes, having witnessed Maddinson’s battering of the beleaguered Stars attack from the other end, only had to knock around singles to complete the chase. He finished unbeaten and just one run short of his half-century, and the Stars’ season was officially finished with their future uncertain. It remains to be seen whether they can salvage anything from their last two games, or whether this whole campaign has just been a great big waste of time. This loss, against their only competition for the mantle of the worst team in the BBL, suggests that there is no quick fix for their many issues, and that redemption could be hard to come by.

Top 5
1. Nic Maddinson (Sydney Sixers)
Maddinson broke the chase open with a series of hard-hit boundaries, batting with the freedom of a man with nothing to lose and reaping extraordinary rewards. His slog sweep against Hastings was a top quality shot, and he hit the ball so nicely that no ground could hold him. He showed the kind of form the Sixers would have died for earlier in the season.
2. Nathan Lyon (Sydney Sixers)
Lyon came into the attack at key times and destroyed the Stars’ momentum, removing Pietersen and Dunk as the PowerPlay drew to a close and picking up the wicket of Handscomb to leave the Stars reeling. He was as economical as ever, and his final return of 3/18 off four overs played a big part in the Sixers’ comfortable victory.
3. Daniel Hughes (Sydney Sixers)
Hughes was unlucky to finish just one run short of his half-century, but performed admirably with the bat in shepherding the Sixers home. He stayed calm when the ball was moving about at the start of the innings, and his ability to turn over the strike in the middle overs ensured the Stars had no respite from Maddinson’s onslaught. He has gone up a gear since returning from injury.
4. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell was the only Stars player to play well, hitting the ball for a series of clean sixes and taking an excellent catch running back with the flight to remove Denly. His dismissal came at a key time, and was not his best shot, but the Stars’ struggles when he was not at the crease showed just how integral he has become to their success.
5. Sean Abbott (Sydney Sixers)
Abbott was the most expensive of the Sixers’ bowlers, but he made up for it by complementing Lyon’s pressure and accuracy with two wickets of his own. He removed Maxwell at a critical time in the game, and firmly turned momentum in the Sixers’ favour with his breakthroughs. He seems to have found his niche in the middle overs after a rocky start to the season.

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.