Hughes fifty guides Sixers to win
Sydney Sixers 6 for 136 (Hughes 51*, Nannes 3-24) beat Sydney Thunder 6 for 132 (Khawaja 66*) by four wickets
One of the Sydney sides had to break their losing streak tonight, but both teams did their best to keep it alive in a bizarrely entertaining match at ANZ Stadium.
In a game that was morose at times, and resembled a black comedy at others, the Sixers eventually claimed their second win of the tournament, and consigned the Thunder to their eleventh consecutive loss as a T20 franchise.
Chasing 133 to win the Sixers never really looked in complete control with the exception of Daniel Hughes who made his first T20 fifty, a match winning 51 not out from 36 balls. But even Hughes rode his luck courtesy of a dropped catch and several misfields.
Hughes, the 23-year-old New South Welshman, was promoted to No. 3 in just his second game. He watched early as Michael Lumb struck two powerful blows straight before lofting one straight down the throat of deep square-leg.
Hughes then watched a procession of team-mates come and go to some very soft dismissals. Brad Haddin looked in good touch before he lost his focus on the chase and lost a personal argument with Chris Gayle. Haddin felt Gayle was not living up to his paycheque so far, yet he holed out unnecessarily to his darts for 18.
Steve Smith then nicked Dirk Nannes, having clubbed him over the long-on the previous delivery, before Moises Henriques played around a straight-break from Gayle to leave the Sixers needing 44 from 34 balls with just five wickets in hand.
Hughes took that as a cue to swing hard for the rope. He struck two boundaries and two sixes, all over the leg side, in the next two overs to take the requirement under a run-a-ball.
Nannes returned to skittle Steve O'Keefe's stumps via his pad to make things interesting. But a misfield from Gayle, and a simple dropped catch from Scott Coyte at mid-on, gifted Hughes four runs in two deliveries to reach his half-century and all but bury the Thunder.
Brett Lee's winning strike, a top edge over the wicketkeeper, seemed an appropriate ending to a bizarre match.
Earlier, the game appeared as if it would not last the distance in front of a crowd of nearly 21,000. It was a staggering attendance given the poor recent crowds at ANZ and even poorer recent records of the two teams on display.
Gayle again failed to fire, bowled by a cracking yorker from Josh Lalor, having seen his captain Chris Rogers depart the previous over. Matt Prior fell five balls later, in the identical fashion to his previous dismissal, failing to clear mid-off with a lofted drive. When Sean Abbott hit a full toss straight to point the 4 for 27 flashing on the scoreboard had an all too familiar feel to it.
Thankfully Usman Khawaja found some much needed touch to put some respectability to the Thunder's total. At one stage they were 5 for 75 with five overs to go but Khawaja, with help of Simon Keen and Coyte, managed to score 57 from the last 30 balls to help set a target 132.
Khawaja's unbeaten 66 from 47 balls featured 11 crisply struck boundaries, which in itself speaks volumes about the left-hander's class given the slow outfield and two-paced nature of the drop-in wicket.
However, Khawaja's innings was to no avail. The Thunder have not won a match since Gayle scored a match-winning century against the Adelaide Strikers on December 23, 2011.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth