Scorchers crush lacklustre Thunder
Perth Scorchers 1 for 117 (Marsh 56*) beat Sydney Thunder 9 for 113 (Khawaja 56, Hogg 4-29) by nine wickets
Perth Scorchers have catapulted to second on the Big Bash table after a thumping nine-wicket win over the lacklustre Sydney Thunder.
Thunder's loss was a result of a dismal batting performance. Their captain, Chris Rogers, was out of the game before the toss with a fractured finger, and they lost their way not long after the coin fell in Chris Gayle's favour.
The Thunder slumped to their worst powerplay score of the tournament, just 2 for 23 after six overs. 22-year old left-arm swing bowler Jason Behrendorff, in just his third game, used the pace and bounce of the WACA to his advantage. Gayle guided a catch to slip from a good length outswinger. Matt Prior fell for the third match in succession trying to loft over mid-off. Alfonso Thomas took a spectacular catch running back with the flight.
Thunder's position worsened when Michael Beer induced mistakes from Simon Keen and Ryan Carters to leave them at 4 for 33 after nine overs.
Usman Khawaja was called upon to mount another rescue mission. After his classy, unbeaten, 66 against the Sixers, the left-hand batsman backed it up with another half-century. He started slowly, with a couple of streaky leading edges through point. He clicked into gear against Beer in the 13th over, using his feet twice to find the rope at midwicket and then clear it at long-on.
Khawaja and Mark Cosgrove combined to score 47 before the latter cut Nathan Coulter-Nile to deep point.
Without Khawaja's efforts the Thunder would have failed to reach a three-figure score. He passed 50 with a magnificent lofted six over cover from the miserly Thomas. Extraordinarily, it was only Khawaja's third six of his T20 career, equalling his tally of half-centuries. He fell in the last over to Brad Hogg, the first of three wickets in the over. The Thunder posted their lowest total of the tournament thus far.
The Scorchers made light work of the chase, despite losing Herschelle Gibbs early. Gurinder Sandhu, in just his second game, bowled well to collect his first wicket at this level. The 19-year-old conceded just 18 from his four overs.
After that Shaun Marsh and Marcus North took control. Marsh cruised to his third half-century of the tournament, and superseded Aaron Finch as the BBL's leading scorer. Marsh's unbeaten 56 allayed any fears about his thumb injury, having been struck by Doug Bollinger on January 1 in Hobart. Marcus North found some much-need touch, scoring an unbeaten 39 from 30 balls. The partnership was trouble-free, and helped by a 12-ball over from Scott Coyte, who delivered 5 wides and a no-ball before leaving the ground with an elbow problem.
The win moved the Scorchers from sixth on the table, thanks to enormous boost in net run-rate, and they now have a chance at hosting another BBL semi-final. The Thunder, meanwhile, have lost 12 consecutive matches as a franchise, with this arguably their most disappointing.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth