Maxwell does well, Sixers do better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Seventh time lucky for Sixers as Thunder lose their spark

Sydney Sixers vs Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder 156-6 (Green 49, Vince 34, Henriques 25-2) lost to Sydney Sixers 157-2 (Hughes 66*, Denly 43, Maddinson 28) by 8 wickets at the SCG

The Sydney Sixers needed two runs to win off the last ball to claim their first win of the season. It was being bowled by Chris Green, the off-spinner specialising in flat, non-spinning yorkers, to Moises Henriques, returning to the Sixers’ side after a four-game absence. The ball was full, but not quite full enough, as Henriques picked out a gap and ran the requisite two. The finish should have been an exciting one, but somehow both teams conspired to make it look somewhat mundane. Everything about the last ball seemed to be played in slow motion, from Gurinder Sandhu sauntering around the boundary to collect the ball to Daniel Hughes completing the winning runs with all the urgency of a Sunday stroll through the park. For a game which all but ended the Sydney Thunder’s faint finals hopes, the finish was as anticlimactic as it gets.

The Thunder were put in to bat first, and got off to a good start thanks to the efforts of James Vince. Vince, fresh from playing a series of good-looking but ultimately unfulfilling innings during England’s Ashes defeat, came in playing with unconventional footwork and characteristic style. His second ball went for six, as the imposing but not-so-dangerous Carlos Brathwaite was swatted over fine-leg. Then Nathan Lyon, fresh from terrorising Vince and his Ashes counterparts, entered the attack. Maybe it was the bite-sized nature of the T20 format that gave Vince some kind of Dutch courage against Lyon. Whatever the cause, his loft over cover against the off-spinner’s second ball was a nicer shot than any the English played against Lyon in a five-match Ashes series. Vince continued to push his innings along, moving around the crease and picking up a few more fours while he was at it.

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Nice Garry: Nathan Lyon (left) celebrates after removing James Vince.

At the other end, his partners struggled to get going. Usman Khawaja, so fluent against the Perth Scorchers just two nights before, couldn’t start his innings on a tough wicket. It took him nine balls to get off the mark, and he had one run off his first 12 balls before he hit a big six to close out Lyon’s first over. He only added one more run before his painful stay was ended, with Brathwaite trapping him lbw and dabbing to mark the occasion. Shane Watson spent even less time at the crease before he dragged a short ball from Sean Abbott onto his stumps. When Vince looked to take Lyon on again and picked out the man on the boundary, the Thunder were in big trouble, and it only got worse when Callum Ferguson took on Henriques and failed.

Then Green stepped up. After receiving an unexpected promotion to number 5, he had ditched the fluoro-green covered bat he sported earlier in the tournament and found some surprising results as a pinch-hitter. As Arjun Nair kept things steady at the other end, Green swung hard with streaky but effective results. Every skied ball managed to fall safe, and soon Green was finding the fence with greater regularity. He pulled Abbott for six, and Jordan Silk’s attempt to take a great boundary catch failed as he stepped on the rope at the crucial juncture in the process. Nair departed to give Henriques another wicket, but Green hit the next ball for six over mid-wicket. Then, surprisingly, he was run out. After a direct hit failed to run him out, Green made the bizarre decision to steal a second run, with the ball lying a couple of metres from Henriques. He never had a chance, and fell just short of his fifty. The innings ended with some big hits from Jay Lenton and Ben Rohrer, but the target of 157 was not enough.

The Sixers looked a different team with bat in hand. Joe Denly, once England’s great limited-overs hope and now just another player on the County Cricket circuit with no English aspirations, came in after Jason Roy’s expected ascension to the English team and batted with more fluency than any Sixers player had shown all tournament. He had some luck first ball, edging a perfect Sandhu outswinger through the slips for four, and went on to play some beautifully timed shots. A flick off the bowling of Mitchell McClenaghan landed on the boundary rope for six, and when Sandhu dropped short in his second over Denly capitalised with a pair of hard-hit pull shots. Under Denly’s steam the Sixers had brought up their best opening partnership of the season in four overs, and they had flown to 0/54 at the conclusion of the PowerPlay.

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Cool head: Daniel Hughes plays the steadying hand during the Sixers’ first win.

Then the Thunder’s spinners stepped up. Fawad Ahmed and Nair have been the only steady cog in the Thunder’s often creaky wheel this season, and after watching their fast bowlers take a battering at the hands of Denly they entered the attack and delivered instant results. The run rate had slowed steadily in the lead up to Denly’s dismissal, and when the Englishman looked to attack Ahmed and was bowled with his head nowhere near the ball it hardly came as a shock. As Ahmed and Nair continued to press on the Sixers’ early momentum seemed to have evaporated, but both Hughes and Maddinson kept their wickets intact and had soon begun to attack again. Maddinson, with a new, sickly blond haircut, was the initial aggressor, hitting Nair for a crisp slog sweep over mid-wicket, and Hughes took up the attack with a series of boundaries to pass his fifty and whittle down the equation to 30 runs off four overs.

Then Maddinson swung hard and provided a catch for Rohrer, and Henriques didn’t really get going. The boundaries dried up, and the Sixers were forced to deal in singles as they looked to complete the chase. McClenaghan and Green kept things tight at the end, talking with their forearms over their mouths to prevent in-game espionage (if the Sixers batsmen could actually read lips) and executing well at the death. It just wasn’t enough, and the Sixers finished off the chase more comfortably than the last ball finish suggests. The loss all but ends the Thunder’s season, while giving the Sixers the hope that they could glean something from an otherwise disappointing campaign.

Top 5
1. Daniel Hughes (Sydney Sixers)
Hughes anchored the chase with an unbeaten half-century, pacing his innings to perfection and keeping his composure until the end. He seemed slow at the start of the innings, but his steadiness and ability to keep his wicket as the Thunder began to find some momentum allowed the Sixers to get through the spinners largely unscathed and come through with the win.
2. Chris Green (Sydney Thunder)
Green top-scored for the Thunder with a streaky but effective pinch-hitting innings, and he kept things tight with the ball in the PowerPlay and at the death. He hit the ball powerfully on the leg-side, and his flat off-breaks proved difficult to hit. He showed plenty of calmness under pressure, and can take pride in his efforts even if he couldn’t get the Thunder over the line.
3. Joe Denly (Sydney Sixers)
Denly played with excellent timing and power in an aggressive innings, and put the Thunder under pressure from the start of the innings. He punished anything that was remotely short, and gave the Sixers an excellent base in conjunction with Hughes. After Roy’s travails at the top, his success was a breath of fresh air.
4. James Vince (Sydney Thunder)
Vince made batting look easy on a difficult pitch, playing some typically fluent shots and putting the Sixers under some early pressure. His six against Lyon was a top-class shot, and he showed enough to suggest that if he and Khawaja get going the results could be devastating. He didn’t have enough help, but performed well anyway.
5. Moises Henriques (Sydney Sixers)
Henriques returned to the side after a four-game lay-off and showed form with both bat and ball, taking a pair of big wickets in a tidy three over spell and closing the game out calmly without looking at his best. He took over the game as soon as he entered it, and prevented the Thunder from getting on a late run of wickets by keeping his head and playing a neat unbeaten innings.

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.

Masterful Klinger guides Scorchers home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.