Thunder don’t die wondering, but can’t keep their season alive

Sydney Thunder vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 189-6 (Harris 64, Short 28, Sandhu 37-2) def Sydney Thunder 180 (Rohrer 48, Nair 45, Richardson 22-4, Pollard 19-2, Tremain 33-2) by 9 runs at Manuka Oval

The Sydney Thunder needed to win to stay in the competition. It was as simple as that. There was no need to worry about the mysterious permutations thrown up by net run rates and the like. There was only the Melbourne Renegades, who probably needed to win to make finals but quite possibly didn’t given the murky nature of top four qualification. Either way, it was a big match, and a chance for the Thunder to steal a finals berth against a weakened Renegades side. They couldn’t manage, delivering an inconsistent effort with the bat and ball, and compounding their woes with some dismal efforts in the field. They were lucky to get as close as they did to pulling off a remarkable heist.

The Thunder were put under pressure early thanks to Marcus Harris. It was Harris’ lucky night, and he capitalised with his best knock of the season. He was lucky to keep his place, only playing the match thanks to Brad Hodge’s late scratching. He was lucky to receive a series of half-volleys and full tosses from the usually accurate Gurinder Sandhu, allowing him to pierce the off-side field twice in the first over. He was lucky when he nicked a swinging length delivery from the same bowler, only for the tough chance to rebound off the outstretched glove of Jay Lenton into the Manuka Oval turf. He was lucky when Chris Green and Shane Watson dropped too short, gave him too much room or did both, and by the end of the PowerPlay the Renegades had plundered 59 runs. He was lucky when, with his score on 61, an apparent edge to Lenton did not result in a raised finger, and he was even luckier when he hit a pull shot straight down Sandhu’s throat – only for Sandhu to drop the easy catch. His luck finally ran out the next ball, with Green slipping past his nondescript swing, but the damage was done. Beneath his good fortune there lay an innings of exceptional quality, filled with a pair of well-struck sixes and some delightful strokes off the middle of the bat. He was in brilliant touch, and he made batting look easy against the Thunder’s feeble efforts.

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Big innings: Marcus Harris pulls during his key innings of 64.

At the other end, Matthew Short also reaped the benefits of the Thunder’s particularly loose opening. He hit Watson for a pair of boundaries, and was reprieved shortly afterwards when Ahmed made a shocking error. Short’s limp paddle around the corner was a very hard catch to drop, but Ahmed managed to put it down anyway. It wouldn’t have counted due to Mitchell McClenaghan’s no-ball, although it did not bode well for the Thunder’s chances. Ahmed eventually removed the opener himself, with Short caught mid-stride, beaten, and easily stumped by Lenton. Tom Cooper was run out after slipping in the middle of the pitch, and Dwayne Bravo never really got going before presenting McClenaghan with a return catch. The innings had fallen into a slump, and when Kieron Pollard and Jack Wildermuth departed in consecutive balls the Thunder seemed to have averted the worst of the damage. Then McClenaghan had a shocker. To describe his last over as very erratic would not be doing it justice, and Beau Webster capitalised by dispatching the innings’ last four balls for 18 runs to put the Renegades firmly in the box seat.

The Thunder shouldn’t have been close. They adopted a boom-or-bust approach in pursuing the massive target, and both James Vince and Kurtis Patterson fell to skied pull shots which were well caught by the Renegades’ nerveless boundary riders. Then Watson came in and clubbed a trio of sixes over mid-wicket, with Lenton adding a pair of well-hit sixes at the other end to provide some hope. It didn’t last. Watson fell to a stunning diving catch from Pollard and Lenton holed out to Webster, and the Thunder’s decision to swing for the fences looked to have set them on the path to a big loss. Then Arjun Nair and Ben Rohrer came together, and the Thunder’s approach started to work.

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Top catch: Kieron Pollard is completely focused as he removes Shane Watson with an excellent diving catch.

It was an unlikely pairing. Nair has bowled very well over the course of this season, but after receiving a 90-day suspension from delivering his mystery off-spinners it was unclear why he was still in the team. Now he was coming in at number five, and looked at least two spots too high in the batting order. At the start of this season, Rohrer was the grizzled veteran set to give the Thunder’s batting a bit of steel and some late-innings power. He had done neither. With their team’s season on the line, however, the pair found some form. Nair provided the spark, hitting very big sixes for fun despite his diminutive frame. It didn’t seem like much of a threat, not least because Nair didn’t look capable of keeping it up. Then Rohrer got in on the act, with one very big over. Wildermuth was the bowler, and his first two balls were wide and slapped to the vacant off-side boundary. The next four balls went to the fence as well, as Wildermuth showed neither the ability nor the foresight to bowl to his field and paid a heavy price. Rohrer took 28 from the over, and the Renegades were under pressure.

With his side in a bit of trouble, Kane Richardson stepped up. He had bowled two tight overs early, and he entered the attack looking to stop the flow of runs. It took him one over to remove Nair and Rohrer, with both joining their teammates in picking out men on the boundary, and he followed up with two more in his next over as Aiden Blizzard and Sandhu failed to make an impact. The Thunder weren’t completely done, and Green continued to fight with a series of lusty blows, but without Nair and Rohrer they couldn’t get the job done. It was sealed when McClenaghan was trapped in front by Pollard, and the fact that the big Kiwi was the only man who didn’t present the Renegades with a high catch spoke volumes about the Thunder’s unsuccessful approach on the night. They simply weren’t good enough.

Top 5
1. Kane Richardson (Melbourne Renegades)
Richardson came on for his second spell with the Renegades under pressure, and delivered in a big way with four crucial wickets. He made two massive breakthroughs in removing Nair and Rohrer, and put the Renegades on the brink of the finals with his accurate, miserly and match-winning efforts.
2. Marcus Harris (Melbourne Renegades)
Harris played a key role at the top of the order, making batting look very easy on a slightly two-paced wicket and putting the Thunder’s lacklustre bowling to the sword. His half-century was a welcome relief for him after he was initially dropped from the squad, and should be enough to seal his place for the remainder of the tournament.
3. Ben Rohrer (Sydney Thunder)
Rohrer started slowly as Nair looked to push the pace from the other end, but he got himself going by plundering 28 from one Wildermuth over. His clean striking gave the Renegades a very nasty scare with just a few overs to go, and he was unlucky to fall just two runs short of a half-century. He can draw some comfort from his best performance of the season.
4. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair showed some previously hidden batting talents in compiling a surprisingly powerful 45 to put the Renegades under a bit of pressure. Some of his slog sweeps went an extraordinarily long way given his lack of size, and he showed that he can prove a handful even if he is unable to bowl.
5. Matthew Short (Melbourne Renegades)
Short’s contribution could be easily forgotten thanks to Harris’ fluency at the other end, but his efforts in compiling a classy 28 allowed the Renegades to compile the formidable opening partnership which ultimately proved the difference. He looked completely at ease against the Thunder’s bowling, and should be a good prospect for the Renegades.

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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.

Thunder hold on against Scorchers onslaught

Sydney Thunder vs Perth Scorchers
Sydney Thunder 175-4 (Khawaja 85, Ferguson 25, Bresnan 38-2) def Perth Scorchers 172-4 (Bancroft 75*, Cartwright 65*) by 3 runs at Spotless Stadium

The Perth Scorchers required 5 runs to win off 1 ball, with Hilton Cartwright on strike. The Australian international had already taken 19 runs from Mitchell McClenaghan’s last over. The Sydney Thunder, who had ridden the wave of Usman Khawaja’s brilliant form to dominate from start to finish, were now struggling to close out a victory which should have been sealed long before the last over. There was a delay as Cartwright had his bat fixed, and the tension continued to build. After what seemed like an eternity, McClenaghan bowled. Cartwright could only manage a single. The Thunder had survived, and the Scorchers, the kings of the comeback, had fallen agonisingly short.

The Scorchers had done well to get so close. They had dug themselves out of plenty of garden-variety holes in the past, but in this game they had fallen into an abyss. Their pursuit of the Thunder’s first innings 175 couldn’t have started in a worse fashion. Will Bosisto showed some early aggression, but was sent back when he hit a short leg-side ball straight to Fawad Ahmed. Michael Klinger tried to take on mid-off, but couldn’t get enough power and was caught. Ashton Turner, coming into the game in brilliant form, was trapped in front by a Gurinder Sandhu yorker. Adam Voges was clean bowled when Ahmed entered the attack, leaving the Scorchers 4/35 and in dire straits. At this point, with the game all but over, Cartwright walked out to the wicket to join Cameron Bancroft.

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Fightback: Hilton Cartwright looks to go big during his unbeaten 65.

Bancroft had come in at number 3, and had watched the carnage unfold from the other end in his first BBL game of an up-and-down season. He was the one member of the Australian side who never really performed during the Ashes, and spent the last part of the series subjected to queries about his technique, his temperament and, in general, his batting ability. Now, he had a chance to show his class, and he took it well. He played maturely as he looked to steady the ship, but started to find the fence with more regularity as the innings progressed. That was when he began to give chances, with Khawaja dropping him while running back at cover and Ben Rohrer putting down a very high top edge. He responded to the latter dropping by bringing up fifty with a four and a six, and gave some indication that the miss might be a costly one. He continued to find the fence and play some nice shots in the final overs, but by then Cartwright had taken over.

Cartwright came in with the Scorchers looking gone for all money. Voges had just been bowled by a ripping wrong-un from Ahmed, and it appeared as if they would face a struggle to get to 100, let alone 175. He started slowly, struggling to find much timing and dealing almost exclusively in singles. Jay Lenton missed a chance to stump him when he was on 7, but it didn’t look particularly costly. He showed glimpses of his best, such as a big six to the long boundary, but glimpses were not nearly enough against the tidy spin of Ahmed and Arjun Nair. Then, with 74 runs needed off 30 balls, he started to find the fence. Chris Green was hit for a four and a six, and when Cartwright was dropped later in the over it looked like a very bad error. He brought up fifty with the first ball of the last over, and followed it up by hitting the next ball into the Spotless Stadium roof. He continued to hit twos, and he just needed one more boundary to seal a remarkable comeback. He couldn’t get one away, and the Thunder could finally relax after a far-from-comfortable finish.

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Big jump: Will Bosisto goes aerial to deny Ben Rohrer a six with some great fielding.

Their first innings total was underpinned by Khawaja’s stunning 85. When Khawaja is at his most fluent it feels like the game situation is irrelevant, and the scoreboard just doesn’t matter. He wasn’t quite at that level on his return to the BBL from a fighting 171 against the English, but he raced to his half-century with remarkable ease, playing some beautiful strokes along the way. Early on, the quick bowlers were pulled and flicked, and Voges’ decision to use the part-time off-spin of Bosisto backfired as the Test number 3 caressed him around the ground with contempt. When Shane Watson departed after playing a big shot and getting caught on the boundary, Khawaja responded by launching Tim Bresnan for a pair of sixes and hitting Ashton Agar for a towering six over mid-on. He continued to make batting look ridiculously simple, hitting every ball out of the middle of the bat as he cruised towards what seemed an inevitable century. Then it was over, an uncharacteristic slash at a wide ball from Agar presenting Klinger with a simple catch.

At the other end, his partners were made to look sub-par as they struggled to match his input. Kurtis Patterson hit a few boundaries, but never looked like getting going before edging one to Bancroft off the impressive bowling of debutant Matt Kelly. Watson put away the bad balls well, but his big shot against Bresnan brought about his downfall, and Callum Ferguson never threatened to set the world alight before he drilled a pull shot straight to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket. Rohrer hit a couple of nice shots, but some athletic fielding from Bosisto in saving a six ensured that a big straight hit in the last over was his only boundary. Despite the unsatisfying end, 175 looked like a very good score when the second innings began. In the end, thanks to the Scorchers’ never-say-die attitude, it was only just enough.

Top 5
1. Usman Khawaja (Sydney Thunder)
Khawaja was at his fluent best, not missing a beat in transitioning from Test cricket to the BBL and hitting graceful boundaries all over the ground. He looked a cut above the rest, and his return to the ranks bodes very well for the rest of the Thunder’s season, provided he is not given an ODI call-up.
2. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft was not in the best of form throughout the Ashes, but his hard-fought 75 held the Scorchers’ innings together just as it looked like they were going to be rolled. He hit the ball powerfully through mid-on, and showed great fight to nearly get his side over the line. He kept solidly, and benefitted from being given a bit more freedom to play his shots.
3. Gurinder Sandhu (Sydney Thunder)
Sandhu was the pick of the Thunder’s bowlers, swinging the ball in the PowerPlay to put the Scorchers under pressure and showing great composure in conceding just 7 runs off the nineteenth over of the innings. He was hard to get away despite his lack of pace, and bowled with metronomic accuracy and plenty of intelligence.
4. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright started slowly, but played with more fight than most of his teammates and found his power at the end of the innings. His composure and controlled hitting nearly got the Scorchers over the line, and he caused some nervous moments for the home crowd in taking 20 from the last over. His straight six against McClenaghan in the final over hit the roof, showing just how hard he can hit the ball.
5. Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder)
Ahmed turned the ball both ways, and his entrance into the attack led to a sharp drop in the run rate. He bowled Voges with a ripping wrong-un, and he was unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Cartwright with a similar delivery. His variety was excellent, and he executed well whenever he was given the ball.

Fresh start for Hurricanes as Short overpowers Thunder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder spinners rumble hapless Hurricanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat just too good for workmanlike Thunder

Brisbane Heat vs Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder 149-4 (Watson 56, Ferguson 37, Shadab 27-2, Lalor 42-2) lost to Brisbane Heat 153-4 (Burns 45*, Peirson 43, Ross 25*, Lynn 25, McClenaghan 45-2) by 6 wickets (DLS) at the Gabba

The Brisbane Heat’s explosive batting line-up proved too strong for the Sydney Thunder, who failed to defend 151 in a rain-shortened match as Joe Burns and Alex Ross steered them home on the second last ball of the match. It was Ross who sealed it with an explosive cameo, hitting two fours and two sixes to reinvigorate a chase which had begun to stall on the back of some solid bowling in the slippery Brisbane night. In doing so, the Heat reaffirmed their status as one of the danger teams of the competition, and showed that they have plenty of room for improvement.

The Thunder made the unorthodox call to bat first, and while Jos Buttler and Kurtis Patterson were able to find the boundary early some tight bowling from Mark Steketee ensured the Heat took the early ascendency. Patterson was dismissed the ball before the players left the field for rain, with Josh Lalor cramping him for room and forcing him to bunt a catch to Ben Cutting on the mid-wicket boundary, and when the players resumed the over reduction left the Thunder with just five balls left in their PowerPlay.

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Death rattle: Shadab Khan breaks through Jos Buttler’s defences.

They made the most of them, with Buttler only denied a four by a brilliant headlong dive from Brendon McCullum and Shane Watson closing out the over with a pair of fours from short-pitched deliveries. Buttler fell a couple of overs later, undone by some clever bowling from Shadab Khan, but Watson had soon hit his stride. Mitchell Swepson was hit for two big sixes over mid-wicket and late cut for four through point, and fours off Steketee and Brendan Doggett allowed him to bring up his half-century in the twelfth over. At that point Watson, ably supported by the returning Callum Ferguson, looked set for a huge total, but it was not to be. On 56, he tried one big shot too many, taking on Shadab over cover and failing to clear the fence as Joe Burns ran around to take an excellent catch.

Ferguson and Ben Rohrer managed to finish the innings well, Ferguson’s damaging hitting and Rohrer’s experience allowing them to post a competitive total of 149 from a difficult position. The Thunder’s defence started perfectly, with McCullum dismissed by a brilliant Mitchell McClenaghan off cutter which beat his leading edge on its way to the off stump. The Heat hadn’t quite kicked off as they would have liked, and Jimmy Peirson was struggling to get going. Then Chris Lynn came to the crease.

To say Lynn’s return to competitive cricket was greatly anticipated would be something of an understatement. Lynn’s efforts last season were remarkable, and thanks to a recurrence of the shoulder injuries which have plagued his career his exploits have taken on a mythic significance. Now was the time when that reputation would be put to the test. His first ball proved that the power was still there, as he smote Fekete through the covers for a four. McClenaghan was spooked, and bowled two wides before being hit over mid-wicket for six. With two more fours off McClenaghan and a nice stroke through the covers off Chris Green, Lynn had 22 runs from six balls, and the parochial Gabba crowd were lapping it up. Then it was over before it had really begun, Watson taking the big wicket as Lynn failed to clear the man on the fence. The innings had promised so much it felt as if a first-ball duck would have been less of a disappointment.

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Still got it: Chris Lynn hits over cover during his cameo of 25 runs off 9 balls.

Lynn’s innings had provided a spark, and the Heat kept going as Burns joined Peirson and the pair steadied the ship with some nice batting. Peirson had just found some form and looked set for a much-needed half-century when he was dismissed, and when Cutting’s efforts as a pinch hitter fizzled out it looked as if the Thunder may actually close out an unlikely victory. That was until Ross, with composure and plenty of power, saw that the Heat’s fears were unfounded. Two sixes over mid-wicket, one in the 15th and another in the 16th, gave the hosts needing nine off the last over, and when Burns hit Fekete’s limp half volley for a huge six over mid-wicket, the game was all but sealed. In the end, the Thunder’s travails were just not enough, as the Heat found a way to get it done.

Top 5
1. Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder)
Watson made the game’s biggest individual contribution with both bat and ball, showing excellent power in his blistering 56 and bagging the massive wicket of Lynn just when he looked like taking the game away from them. His efforts were not enough in the end, but his solid bowling and powerful batting showed that his all-round talent is still intact.
2. Joe Burns (Brisbane Heat)
Burns was a steady presence in the last few overs, and while he was not able to find his best form his ability to hang around allowed Ross to get the Heat over the line. He hit a nice six to all but seal the deal for the Heat, and took a very nice catch to remove Watson as the Thunder looked to go for it.
3. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
Ross’ brilliant form continued with an excellent cameo, contrasting his steady knocks in the opening two games with a flurry of boundaries that got the Heat over the line. His boundaries came at crucial times and allowed the Heat to stay in the game as the Thunder tried desperately to close it out, and looks to be the Heat’s most versatile option.
4. Callum Ferguson (Sydney Thunder)
Ferguson looked in excellent touch on return from injury, and by the end of his innings he was hitting the ball with brutal force and finding the fence very effectively. His big hitting allowed the Thunder to post a very defendable 149, and he will only get better as he looks to regain his fluency.
5. James Peirson (Brisbane Heat)
Still looks out of form, but battled very well on his way to a key innings of 43. Saw McCullum and Lynn fall at the other end and worked hard to steady the innings and give the Heat a good platform. He kept very nicely, with a tough take above his head a particular highlight.

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.