Sixers in final after crushing Strikers
Sydney Sixers 4 for 181 (Maddinson 85, Lumb 32) beat Adelaide Strikers 94 (Bollinger 3-21, Abbott 2-14, O'Keefe 2-17, Lyon 2-26) by 87 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It took six excellent victories to get the Adelaide Strikers to the semi-finals of the Big Bash League, but it took just one bad performance for their season to be ended. In front of a watershed and record-breaking Adelaide Oval crowd of 52,633, the Strikers crashed to an 87-run defeat, heavier than any of those they have inflicted this season, at the hands of the Sydney Sixers.
The Sixers, who won the toss and chose to bat, scored a challenging 181, which the Strikers never once threatened as they lost wickets on regular occasions, crumbling to 94 all out. The Sydney side progress to next Wednesday's final and await the winner of Perth Scorchers-Melbourne Stars tomorrow.
The Sixers opted to change their opening partnership of Nic Maddinson and Michael Lumb in an attempt to upset the Strikers' planning. Lumb kickstarted the innings with some pugnacious and punchy stroke-play, hitting six fours and a six before he was run out in the fifth over for a 19-ball 32. At the other end Riki Wessels played second fiddle to Lumb before he was tied down, as the Strikers deployed their spinners, before falling for a run-a-ball 24.
The match was set up however, by Maddinson, who has this season walked the tight rope of batting bravado, but today batted with caution and pragmatism as the situation demanded. In his first 30 balls he hit just a six and a four in his 31 before exploding into action. A six over the midwicket boundary was the touch paper for his following 18 balls which were clubbed, slogged, heaved, carved and slashed to the boundary nine times as he raced past 50, through the 60s and beyond. More than a couple of the boundaries flew of thick edges but the Strikers, so adept this season at taking wickets on regular occasions to puncture momentum couldn't do so. It seemed fortune favoured the brave.
Maddinson was assisted in his assault by Moises Henriques after Jordan Silk managed just 3 from five before he was trapped lbw by Ben Laughlin. Henriques too accelerated once Maddinson's onslaught was ended by Kane Richardson for 85.
Lumb, Wessels and Henriques played little more than assisting roles to Maddinson, whose innings single-handedly propelled the Sixers to 181, a total 19 more than the average first innings score at the Adelaide Oval.
The Strikers' highest score this season was 6 for 182 in an earlier encounter with the Sixers, but batting second they hadn't been asked to chase more than 153, and they did seem overawed by the target, in front of more than 50,000 fans - a record crowd for a BBL match.
Craig Simmons fell in the second over when an expansive drive produced nothing more than a thin edge through to wicketkeeper Ryan Carters. Travis Head was the next to go, falling for 8 to Doug Bollinger. Tim Ludeman also departed before the end of the Powerplay which they exited at 3 for 38.
The Strikers have, with Head and Alex Ross down the order, rebuilt from such starts this season, but today, with Ross dropped down to make room for Hodge, who has been short of time in the middle, and Ryan ten Doeschate, who hasn't made more than 26 for the Strikers, they caved into the pressure of a spiralling run rate and no in-form batsmen to call upon.
Bollinger took three wickets, while Sean Abbott, Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon picked up two apiece as the Strikers run chase imploded. The Sixers did bowl well also, which only added to the pressure for the Strikers.
For the second season running, the team to finish top of the ladder has been eliminated in the semi-finals. The result will no doubt lend credence to the argument that the BBL should adopt a different knockout structure, rewarding the top-placed team more than merely a home semi-final and perhaps, like the Indian Premier League, two opportunities at final qualification.
An hour after the match was completed as litter blew around the empty stadium, Ludeman, one of the stars of the season for the Strikers could be seen signing autographs for a group of kids. The Strikers may have lost today, but this season they have at least won the hearts and minds of their city. They built a momentum to their season and connected with their public in a way sporting teams should. It's hard to not look at the massive crowd today for a domestic match and see it as something of a seminal day for domestic cricket not only in Australia, but around the world.
Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist. @fwildecricket