Billings and Sixers fall one six short of victory
Hobart Hurricanes 6 for 170 (Short 42, Wade 41, Abbott 3-27) beat Sydney Sixers 4 fo 165 (Billings 61*, Silk 45, Mills 2-42) by five runs
Hobart Hurricanes claimed their third straight win, by the skin of their teeth, scraping past the winless Sydney Sixers in a last-ball thriller in Hobart.
The Sixers needed 18 off the last three balls and Sam Billings, who played a blinder to take his side to the brink, struck consecutive sixes off Tymal Mills to move everyone to the edge of their seat.
Mills had missed his lengths twice, and off the last ball he missed a third time, delivering a length ball in the slot that could have sailed into the stands, but Billings swung too soon and collected nothing but fresh air to come up just short.
A very even batting performance, led by D'Arcy Short and Matthew Wade, and finished superbly by Dan Christian helped the Hurricanes post a competitive 6 for 170. The Sixers top order slumped again before Billings and Jordan Silk dragged them back. But Christian's sensational 19th over, conceding just six runs, gave Mills 21 runs to play with in the 20th and it proved enough in the end.
The Hurricanes' finals hopes remain intact while the Sixers' sixth straight loss has effectively ended their campaign.
Short slowed a fraction
Short has been in the form of his life with 284 runs for the tournament striking at an impressive 153.51. But the Sixers were able to keep him quieter than usual. It helped that they kept him off strike. He faced just three balls in the first three overs. He lost opening partner Alex Doolan early but Wade stepped up and scored freely, striking two fours and a six off Jackson Bird in the third over. Ben Dwarshuis tied up Short. He scored four off nine balls before his first boundary. Then a glorious 107m straight drive off Daniel Sams clicked him into gear. Short and Wade put together a steady 77-run stand and looked to be laying a perfect platform before Wade fell in the 11th over for 41.
Sean Abbott has had a rough tournament to-date. Last year's leading wicket-taker in the BBL had taken just three wickets at an average of 52 this season, more than double is career average, and an economy rate of 9.63, compared to his career rate of 8.87. Those numbers looked set to worsen after his first over in Hobart, conceding 11 with two fours. But he responded well. Johan Botha re-introduced him in the 12th over. Short flicked a six over midwicket second ball, but Abbott got him two balls later with a well-directed slower ball that was miscued to mid-off. Abbott then bowled 10 dot balls in his next 14 deliveries, including the wickets of George Bailey and Ben McDermott, and conceded just one four. His 3 for 27 from four overs put the Hurricanes in a hole at 5 for 132 with 18 balls left. But Christian and Simon Milenko struck six fours and a six between them to get the total to 170.
Across their first five losses the Sixers only once got through 10 overs without losing three wickets. They failed to do so again in Hobart. They had the perfect start with Milenko delivering a no-ball first ball of the innings. Jason Roy hit the free hit for six to start with seven off one legal ball. They got 14 from the over. But then Roy awkwardly tried to reverse sweep the first ball he saw from Clive Rose before hitting a waist-high catch to cover with the next. Nic Maddinson never looked comfortable in his six-ball stay. Daniel Hughes chewed 35 balls for his 33 on return from injury. The early wickets allowed Cameron Boyce and Christian to bowl five overs after the Powerplay for just 25 runs.
Silk and Sam
The Sixers needed 101 from 54 balls but their form players, Silk and Billings, didn't panic. They chipped away with a boundary an over to keep the required run rate within arms-reach. When Silk holed out to long-on they needed 47 from 21. Billings kept going. He struck three consecutive fours off the near-untouchable Jofra Archer in the 18th over. One was via a fortunate top-edge but the other two were shots of incredible skill. He pulled a well-executed bouncer and sliced a good yorker into gaps. Christian's mix of slower balls in the 19th over looked to have saved the game for the Hurricanes as neither Billings nor Dwarshuis could find the rope. But Mills did not execute his skills quite as well and Billings almost made him pay with the game.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth