Bowlers, Maddinson help Sixers reach final
Sydney Sixers 6 for 153 (Maddinson 68) beat Hobart Hurricanes 7 for 146 (Jaques 63, Lee 2-22) by seven runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A spot in the Big Bash final, and qualification for the Champions League T20, was left in the hands of 32-year-old Ian Moran, who had only played four Twenty20 games and 13 List A games before the semi-final. The Sydney Sixers' Moran, who has represented Scotland, held his nerve in the last over as the Hobart Hurricanes' Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Michael Hogan failed to find the 18 runs required to win at the Bellerive Oval.
Given the potency of the Hurricanes batting line-up, with two of the three leading run-scorers in the competition in their side, the Sixers looked unlikely to defend 153. But their varied bowling attack, featuring Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, New Zealand's Nathan McCullum and the virtually unknown Moran managed to accomplish what seemed an impossible task. They strangled the Hurricanes to scrape home by eight runs and book a place in the final.
As so often happens in big matches this semi-final hinged on one vital moment. The Hurricanes were 1 for 50, four balls into the ninth over, with an achievable 104 runs required from 67 balls.
The tournament's leading run-scorer, Travis Birt, stood over his bat, wielding it like an axe, facing up to the grey-haired Stuart MacGill. Birt had had one sighter, which he drove powerfully to long-off for a single. MacGill's eyes were focused. The previous ball, Phil Jaques attempted to slog-sweep with the turn over midwicket, but a miscue yielded just a single. MacGill, with all his experience, tossed it up next ball. Birt's eyes lit up as he skipped forward and swung hard. But he misread the perfectly executed wrong 'un, which spun away from his flashing blade, and Peter Nevill completed a simple stumping.
MacGill, and his Sixers team-mates, knew they had struck a decisive blow. The capacity Hobart crowd fell flat. Birt was out for 11, his lowest score of the tournament by some margin. Four balls later, the creative Owais Shah outsmarted himself and was bowled by an innocuous straight ball from McCullum for a duck.
The Hurricanes seemed dead and buried but they did not go down without a fight. Jaques played arguably his finest hand of the tournament. Having got to 33 at a pain-staking run-a-ball, he played consecutive reverse-sweeps for fours in MacGill's third over, which cost 15. Jaques managed consecutive boundaries again off MacGill two overs later: a long-hop was pulled to the fence to bring up Jaques' half-century and another reverse-sweep rubbed salt into MacGill's wound.
Jaques dealt the Sixers another blow when Brett Lee ran into him while trying to stop a drive. Lee bled profusely from the nose, Jaques and Matt Johnston took nine from the over and the Hurricanes were still alive with 47 needed from 24 balls. Steven Smith's double strike in the next over, which included Jaques' dismissal for 63, attempting another reverse-sweep, all but sealed the game.
Naved-ul-Hasan, the Pakistan bowler who has become a cult figure in Australia, played a cameo that was typical of him. The Sixers captain Smith gambled by bowling a second over, the 19th of the innings, and Naved hit two mighty sixes and a four to leave 18 required off the last over. But despite a boundary off Moran's first ball, Naved was stranded with an unbeaten 30 from just 14 balls.
Earlier, the game looked very much in the Hurricanes' control. Xavier Doherty began the night with a wicket-maiden, removing Moises Henriques caught and bowled. It took the Sixers ten balls to register their first run, and Nic Maddinson took until the ninth over to get his runs tally ahead of his number of balls faced.
Maddinson, though, did not panic as wickets fell at the other end. He hit eight fours in a 51-ball 68 that was critical to his side's victory, and saw him named Man of the Match.
The Hurricanes again bowled well with only Jason Krejza leaking more than eight runs an over, but the Sixers managed to bowl that little bit better. Lee was again wonderful with 2 for 22 from his four. Moran's four overs cost just 25, while the spinners, MacGill, McCullum, and Smith, made decisive strikes. The Sixers will meet the Perth Scorchers in the final, which will be played on January 28 at the WACA.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth