Silk's late blitz hauls Sixers home
Sydney Sixers 6 for 155 (Silk 69*, Lalor 4-29) beat Sydney Thunder 4 for 154 (Kallis 56, Blizzard 51*, Lyon 3-19) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
They came to farewell Brett Lee, they paused to applaud Michael Hussey and they went home enraptured by a scarcely believable escape from the Sydney Sixers.
But Sydney's biggest cricket crowd of the summer, 36,487 in all, was treated most pointedly to a clinic in offspin bowling by Nathan Lyon. Like Lee, Hussey and the Thunder, Lyon has played his last limited-overs match at the SCG this summer.
The Sixers had already qualified for an away semi-final against the Adelaide Strikers, and only the most one-sided of victories would have allowed them to earn a home knockout match - the other semi will see the Perth Scorchers host the Melbourne Stars. The Thunder have, however, shown plenty of improvement under the leadership of Hussey and the South African coach Paddy Upton, and they came within an ace of their first ever victory over the Sixers in four editions of the Big Bash League.
It was the slippery left-arm fast-medium of Josh Lalor that seemed to have shut out the Sixers. Lalor zipped through Michael Lumb with his very first ball, and followed up with the wickets of Nic Maddinson, Ed Cowan and Ryan Carters to at one point be holding the eye-popping figures of 4 for 2. Jacques Kallis - who made a crisp 56 despite his back seizing up - and Aiden Blizzard provided the twin peaks of the Thunder innings.
But an exhibition of late hitting by Jordan Silk, who swung five sixes in his unbeaten 69 from 44 balls, kept the game within the Sixers' sights. Lalor had conceded six runs from his first three overs, but was unable to conceded fewer than 23 in the last over of the night. Eight were required off two, before Steve O'Keefe edged and swiped two boundaries to keep his side's record of hometown dominance intact.
Even so, Lyon's display will stick in the memory. Considered surplus to World Cup requirements, he flighted the ball, varied his pace and yet also bowled with considerable thrift. In four overs his only boundary came via a precise Kallis cover drive, the sort of boundary any offspinner worth his salt will not mind giving away now and then. The 2010-11 Big Bash had provided a striking introduction to Lyon's skills, and this night he provided a beguiling reprise.
Each of Kallis, Hussey and Cameron Delport were done in the air by Lyon, skying catches as they sought to strike the kinds of sixes that the national selectors feared Lyon would have conceded during the Cup. One member of the panel, Mark Waugh, referred to Lyon as a "confidence bowler" at the start of his spell. By the end there were plenty of indicators that Lyon's confidence in his craft has seldom been higher.
Lee's spell showed why now is the right time for him to give the game away. While his pace remains near enough to the quickest around, Lee's flat trajectory has always been hittable for the best batsmen, and final figures of 4-0-38-0 were the most expensive among the Sixers' bowlers for the evening.
Kallis was beaten by a few good ones from Lee and Doug Bollinger while the ball was still new, but pushed on beyond 50 before a combination of Lyon and his increasingly stiff back brought his end. Blizzard was busy and efficient, his strike rate of over 140 arriving without the need to lift a single ball beyond the boundary.
Together their efforts were enough to post a tally that seemed beyond the Sixers, before Silk hit out brightly at the finish. Silk's late burst of hitting showed further evidence of the all-round skill he also exhibited with a brilliant running, diving effort to catch Chris Green. Thanks largely to him, the night would end with the Sixers victorious, and Lyon headed for his old stomping grounds of Adelaide and, perhaps, Canberra.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig