Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat, Big Bash, SCG December 16, 2011

Haddin, MacGill shine in Sixers win

Alex Malcolm

Sydney Sixers 3 for 140 (Haddin 76) beat Brisbane Heat 8 for 139 (MacGill 2-21) by seven wickets

Who said Twenty20 was a young man's game? The bright lights, fluorescent pink uniforms, fireworks and cheerleaders were all pitched at the younger audience. But it was the older players who dominated the opening night of the brand-new Big Bash League, on which the Sydney Sixers thumped the Brisbane Heat at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Forty-year-old Stuart MacGill, playing his first professional match since retiring in May 2008, and 35-year-old Brett Lee bowled tight spells to restrict the Heat to 8 for 139 from their 20 overs before Sixers captain, the 34-year-old Australia Test wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, made 76 off just 59 balls to help steer his side home by seven wickets.

On a sluggish surface, the Sixers drew first blood, literally, when Lee struck Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand keeper-batsman, square between the eyes. McCullum, who is the leading run-scorer in Twenty20 internationals, was forced to retire hurt with blood pouring from the bridge of his nose.

The Sixers quicks mixed up their pace well as Heat pair Matthew Hayden and James Hopes battled to find any fluency with their stroke-play. Hopes was the first to fall when he holed out at long-off to a Dwayne Bravo slower ball.

Then MacGill took control. In three years out of the game it seemed he had gained more control than he ever had. He bowled with wonderful guile and skill. Given he had only played a handful of Grade games in preparation for the tournament he showed that skilled players never lose their ability.

First he defeated McCullum in flight, tossing the ball above McCullum's swollen eyes and getting him to advance and miscue to long off.

Then MacGill clean bowled his former Test team-mate Hayden for 29 with one that dipped and spun back sharply. Hayden looked rusty in his 28-ball stay. He showed brief glimpses of his abilities and will undoubtedly be better for the time in the middle.

MacGill finished with 2 for 21 from four quality overs, and might have had three wickets if Brett Lee had not unfortunately fallen onto the rope and dropped the ball after he had taken a brilliant catch off Andrew Robinson.

Dan Christian, a New South Welshman who lives in Adelaide but is representing Brisbane for this Big Bash tournament only, was the only Heat batsman to get going. He made 32 from 22 before holing out in the deep of Mitchell Starc. Peter Forrest fell in the same manner, Steven Smith completing an outstanding catch while having to play hop-scotch to avoid stepping on the rope.

The Sixers captain, Haddin, then made a mockery of a slow surface by playing with fluency and sublime timing. His 76 included five fours and five enormous sixes. He clubbed 16 from one Alistair McDermott over, first lofting straight for six, then backing away and lofting over cover for four, before pulling the last ball over fine leg and into the stands. He later thumped consecutive sixes off Nathan Hauritz, the second hitting the upper deck of the Ladies' Stand. He fell to the only ball he mis-hit, but the damage was done. The Sixers cruised home with nine balls to spare, and without using the services of Dwayne Bravo or Ed Cowan.

The Sixers look a sharp outfit with plenty of experience and depth, and they have started the tournament in fine fashion.