Smith stars as Sixers take nail-biter
Sydney Sixers 6 for 179 (Smith 52, Hilfenhaus 2-25) beat Hobart Hurricanes172 for 8 (Paine 57, Hazlewood 2-25) by seven runsScorecard
The Sydney Sixers held their nerve to register a vital seven-run win over the Hobart Hurricanes at the SCG. Steve Smith, the Sixers captain, was the star with both the bat and in the field with an outstanding half-century with two excellent outfield catches late in the game to deny the Hurricanes third spot on the Big Bash League table.
Despite a challenging target of 180, the visitors were kept in the chase courtesy a delightful opening partnership of 98 in 10 overs between Tim Paine and Ben Dunk.
Dunk survived a curious incident in the opening over. He flicked Brett Lee to short fine leg where Josh Hazlewood appeared to have taken the catch on the half-volley. Hazlewood was very unsure but Lee was adamant. Replays reprieved Dunk but Lee uncharacteristically lost his cool.
Paine capitalised with pure class in Lee's second over. Two sweet drives for four, a powerful cut shot, and an eye catching swivel pull for six meant 21 runs had come off it.
The Hurricanes openers were in complete command until Nathan Lyon's second over. Lyon appeared to have trouble gripping the ball and Paine punched a full toss for four moments after reaching an elegant half-century from just 26 balls. But then, inexplicably, Paine attempted a reverse paddle sweep and was sharply stumped by Dan Smith to halt the Hurricanes' momentum.
Dunk charged Lyon two overs later and gifted the wicketkeeper his second stumping. When Jonathan Wells was trapped in front by Steve O'Keefe the game was firmly in the Sixers grasp.
But with 63 needed off the last seven overs, Travis Birt almost pulled them out of the fire. His powerful 33 from 21 balls edged the Hurricanes within 16 runs of victory with nine balls remaining.
Enter Steve Smith. He stood for an eternity under a towering skier from Birt's blade at deep midwicket and held the catch comfortably. Evan Gulbis was clean bowled next ball and Hazlewood nearly completed an unlikely hat-trick with Ben Laughlin top edging the last ball of the penultimate over between three converging fieldsmen.
With 14 required from the final over Shoaib Malik drilled a flat tracer bullet to deep extra cover where Smith was again fortuitously positioned. The skipper held a catch and Lee then held his nerve to seal the win.
Smith's batting was equally as important to the Sixers victory as his half-century was the backbone of their total of 6 for 179. Entering after a blistering start courtesy of Nic Maddinson, Michael Lumb, and Moises Henriques, Smith absorbed just one dot ball in 31 deliveries faced before his dismissal in the final over of the innings.
Despite struggling for strike at various stages as Jordan Silk was tied down Smith batted with supreme authority and looked a class above throughout. He hit the leg spin of Cameron Boyce inside out over cover for six and the pace of Doug Bollinger over backward for the same result. Smith fell to his only mistake of the innings, a miss-hit full toss off Bollinger.
But the Sixers managed to score 43 runs off their final 18 deliveries to set the target of 180, which proved just enough in the end.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth