Sydney Sixers captain Daniel Hughes has steered his side towards a thrilling victory against the Melbourne Stars at Metricon Stadium on Saturday evening.
Hughes (96 off 51 balls) struck the highest score by a Sixers player in BBL history to secure the unlikely win on the Gold Coast, which finished after midnight local time with a final over that couldn’t be scripted.
An explosive partnership between Australian powerhouse Glenn Maxwell and West Indies import Nicholas Pooran wasn’t enough for the Stars, who were eventually toppled by one wicket.
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The Sixers chose to bowl first after winning the toss, and all-rounder Jason Holder immediately removed West Indies teammate Andrew Fletcher in the opening over, caught at mid-on for four.
Hilton Cartwright followed suit soon after, skying a short ball from paceman Ben Dwarshuis on 14.
Veteran tweaker Steve O’Keefe then trapped Nick Larkin in front for two, before dismissing Ben Dunk caught in the outfield or 24.
But Maxwell (71* off 47) and Pooran (65 off 26) combined for a remarkable 125-run partnership, guiding the Stars towards a formidable total of 5/193.
The run chase started horrifically, with Sixers opener Jack Edwards and English international James Vince both removed for a duck.
Hughes steadied the ship through the middle overs to ensure his side won the Bash Boost bonus point at the 10-over mark. He combined with Josh Philippe for a 50-run stand before Stars leg-spinner Adam Zampa struck with his first delivery of the match.
Brief cameos from Holder (18 off 11 balls) and West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite (21 off 12 balls) set up a thrilling conclusion, in which the Sixers required 23 runs from the final two overs.
Pace bowler Liam Hatcher (3/33 off four overs) snared two crucial scalps in the penultimate over to put the Stars back in the favourable position.
But Hughes struck three consecutive boundaries off Maxwell’s next over to make the equation four runs required off three balls.
Hughes was then caught on the boundary rope at mid-wicket in yet another twist, meaning the Sixers tailenders had to muster four runs from two balls.
And to everybody’s surprise, the winnings runs came from leg byes, with the ball flying past the wicketkeeper and towards the third man boundary.
It was the first time these two clubs had met since last year’s BBL Final, and the Sixers couldn’t resist rubbing salt into their opponent’s wounds one more time.
TRINIDADIAN’S STUNNING BBL INCEPTION
The Stars were 4/49 when Trinidadian batsman Nicholas Pooran waltzed to the crease in the ninth over, and he could only manage four runs from his first six deliveries.
But Pooran then slapped 42 runs off his next eight balls to completely rattle the defending champions.
He cracked eight sixes and brought up his half-century in just 17 deliveries, making it the fastest fifty by a Stars player in BBL history.
On Channel 7’s coverage, former Australian batsman Brad Hodge called it “one of the best BBL innings you will ever see”.
UMPIRE’S NASTY BLOW
On Boxing Day, umpire Phillip Gillespie showed why several officials have opted to wear helmets and arm guards in the T20 format.
During the 12th over of the run chase, Daniel Christian smashed a delivery from Stars spinner Zahir Khan straight back past the bowler.
Before he even had time to react, the ball struck Gillespie firmly on the hip, and he immediately hit the deck.
Thankfully he was able to continue officiating the match following a two-minute breather.
ANOTHER X-FACTOR BLUNDER
Fans are still unconvinced by the newly-introduced X-Factor innovation, and the Sixers proved why on Saturday.
After spin bowler Ben Manenti conceded five runs off his maiden over, he was subbed out for former Australian seam bowler Gurinder Sandhu.
Unfortunately, Sandhu was pummelled for 28 runs in his only two overs of the match, and the paceman joined a growing list of X-Factor flops.
Young gun equals Lynn’s insane BBL record
The cat is already out of the bag, but Sydney Thunder spinner Tanveer Sangha has a message for the other BBL teams following teammate Oliver Davies’ stunning knock against the Renegades.
The experienced heads of Alex Hales, Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson all reached 30 at Manuka Oval, but they were outshone by a young man with a huge future ahead of him.
Having made his debut earlier in the week, Davies backed up his impressive knock against the Scorchers with a stunning 48 off 23 deliveries which included five sixes in as many balls.
He took a particular liking to the off-spin of Mohammad Nabi as he smashed four sixes to end the 12th over, and backed it up with another maximum off Will Sutherland who got his revenge a delivery later.
“I played a lot of junior cricket with him since under-17s and in the NSW Pathways. The one thing I’ve learnt is not to bowl spin to him,” Sangha said.
Davies is the big-hitting option the Thunder have been searching for in the middle overs, and his sudden emergence has caught the rest of the competition on the backfoot as they look for ways to stop him.
“Going into a game, I like to know what the opposition top seven or eight batsmen are going to do,” Renegades quick Kane Richardson said.
“It’s hard to get a read on him because it’s only his second game and he’s smacked them both times. He’s come from under-19s and club cricket, and it’s hard to compare those, but he’s obviously done well throughout.
“I’m not sure Nabi knew much about him, and that’s the beauty of youth. No doubt the more he plays, other teams will see him, work him out and come up with different strategies, but at the moment, he’s running hot.”
Born in Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches, Davies’ boyish good looks are topped by a scruffy mullet, which he said was inspired by his dad.
“I haven’t cut it for a while, sort of just letting it do its thing at the moment,” he said.
“I shaved my head in February and haven’t touched it since.”
It’s not just Davies who has the rest of the BBL on notice, with fellow youngster Sangha quickly emerging as a threat with the ball. The tweaker is not afraid to toss the ball up and has been rewarded with seven wickets from four games, including 4-14 against Melbourne.
He says the club’s culture has helped him seamlessly slot into the side and has given him the confidence to bowl to his strengths, rather than spear it in negatively to keep the runs down.
“I reckon Sydney Thunder has a great culture and a great environment to be around. There are a lot of experienced blokes here to ask questions and get feedback off, so it’s really helped me with all the experienced players here,” he said.
“It definitely helps when they’re backing you and have full confidence in you and let you play your game and play it naturally.”
UP FOR REVIEW
Umpiring controversies have dominated the BBL so far, and the calls for the DRS will only grow louder after a clear dropped catch was sent upstairs for a review that was over within seconds.
Renegades skipper Aaron Finch was unsure whether he had juggled a catch to dismiss Daniel Sams, prompting the umpires to refer it. It took one replay to show the ball had bounced. If we can review catches so efficiently, why can’t clear-cut howlers like the Tom Cooper LBW decision be overturned?
BOXING DAY HALES
As shoppers took advantage of the Boxing Day sales, the Sydney Thunder cashed in on their English import as Alex Hales bounced back from a horror start to the competition.
After falling for golden ducks in his previous two games, Hales roared back into form with a blistering 35 off 21 deliveries as he and Usman Khawaja added 70 for the first wicket.
Only Marcus Stoinis scored more runs than Hales in last season’s competition, and the Englishman looks to have found his groove this year as he passed 1000 career runs in the BBL.
HAT TRICK WITH AN ASTERISK
It won’t go down in the record books, but the Renegades claimed a team hat-trick to give their fans something to cheer about. Kane Richardson got it started in the penultimate over when he removed Chris Green, before Will Sutherland took one of the catches of the summer to send Ferguson on his way.
While Richardson wasn’t able to claim the seventh hat-trick in BBL history, the wickets didn’t stop as the quick gathered the ball and hit the stumps to remove Baxter Holt for a golden duck.