Ponting leads Hurricanes to win
Hobart Hurricanes 3 for 158 (Ponting 63*, Blizzard 48) beat Sydney Sixers 8 for 154 (Laughlin 4-31) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Another high-class, unbeaten, half-century from Ricky Ponting steered the Hobart Hurricanes to their third win of the tournament over the struggling Sydney Sixers.
But only just.
Chasing 155 for victory the Hurricanes were cruising needing just 22 from the last four overs with eight wickets in hand. But Travis Birt had a meltdown facing Luke Feldman in the 17th over. He gifted a catch to Kurtis Patterson at cover only for the youngster to grass the chance. Two balls later, still needing less than a run a ball, Birt swung hard for the fence and lost his off-stump. Owais Shah then faced three dot balls, before Moises Henriques and Sunil Narine delivered two overs costing just 11, to leave nine required from the last over.
The equation became five runs off three deliveries before Henriques drifted onto Shah's leg stump and was flicked fine for four to level the scores. The winning runs were less than convincing - a top-edged boundary over the keeper's head - but the Hurricanes will take the win anyway the can.
Ponting never panicked throughout his innings. He entered at the end of the second over with the score at 1 for 11, and got off the mark with a flicked six over fine leg. He was the steady head in a 75-run stand with Aiden Blizzard. The powerful left-hand batsman was promoted to open and showed glimpses of the form he displayed many years back when an integral part of the successful Victorian Bushrangers outfit.
Blizzard, like Birt, was bowled by Feldman two runs short of a well deserved half-century. Ponting remained unperturbed. He was at his vintage best when long-time international team-mate Brett Lee forgot whom he was bowling to in the 16th over. The first quick short ball was swatted through midwicket for four. The follow-up bouncer disappeared into the construction site at deep-backward square leg, and the ball was to never to be seen again. Ponting was there to see the chase home, albeit from the non-strikers end, and one gets the feeling he holds the key the Hurricanes' fortunes in this tournament after back-to-back Man-of-the-Match performances.
The Sixers had yearned for the Christmas break after losing three matches in a row but their 48 hours off could not turn their fortunes around. The return of Michael Lumb from international duties appeared to be the spark they needed after they were sent in to bat by George Bailey.
Lumb and Brad Haddin combined for 57 in the Powerplay before Haddin became the first wicket of the night. Lumb had cracked six boundaries in nine deliveries while the field was up. But his dismissal for 34, lbw attempting to reverse-sweep Xavier Doherty, embodied the Sixers tournament to date: unfulfilled starts at the hands of unusual decision-making. Lumb top-scored along with Steve Smith who was one of three wickets to fall to Ben Laughlin in the 18th over. Laughlin's haul of 4 for 31, through a mix of slower-balls and yorkers, makes him leading wicket-taker of BBL so far.
In the end the Sixers were 20 runs short of setting a match-winning total. Their fourth loss of the BBL might well have ended any hopes of defending their title.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth