Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder, BBL 2015-16 final, MCG January 24, 2016

Khawaja 70 hands Thunder maiden title

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Sydney Thunder 7 for 181 (Khawaja 70, Stoinis 3-30) beat Melbourne Stars 9 for 176 (Pietersen 74, Watson 2-17, Green 2-27) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Macpherson: Nice ending for Hussey in Australia

The fifth BBL final was a tale of two innings, and two collapses. Kevin Pietersen, who is in marvellous form, scored 74, before Usman Khawaja, who is in simply superhuman touch, made 70 which, as wickets tumbled, proved enough to hand Sydney Thunder their first title.

Thunder had never finished outside the bottom two for the first four seasons and 2015-16 has been a topsy-turvy one too. They lost four consecutive games after winning their first three and only crept into the finals when their fate was beyond their control. Since then, however, Thunder have been clinical.

Khawaja had considered quitting the western Sydney (the area he grew up in) franchise, but opted to stay after a chat two years ago with Michael Hussey, whom the club pursued desperately to mastermind a rebuild. Thunder have won only 11 out of 41 matches since the Big Bash's inception and Hussey has been at the helm of nine of them, including a final on the same day Thunder won the inaugural Women's BBL too.

In his final game on Australian soil, Hussey was given a guard of honour by Stars led by their captain, his brother, David Hussey, as he walked to the crease. He left, 18 runs later, to a standing ovation; fortunately for him, his team-mates finished the job.

Pietersen's was princely innings. The match was barely into the second over when Marcus Stoinis slapped Shane Watson to mid-off, where Andre Russell, who had struck Stoinis's chest with the match's first ball - took the catch. Pietersen was initially starved of the strike. He was stuck at the non-strikers' for ten balls before flicking Clint McKay for a four, then had to wait ten more deliveries for another hit. Perhaps the Pietersen of old would have forced a suicidal single or lost concentration; here he lofted Jacques Kallis over long-on, cut him for four and just kept going.

Stars were 50 for 2 in seven overs when the other opener Luke Wright fell, but Pietersen was unperturbed. He swatted Fawad Ahmed's first delivery for a straight six, picked up a googly and swept it fine to round off the over and in the next one bowled by the legspinner, Pietersen skipped to leg and flicked the ball over the cover boundary quite powerfully.

In Peter Handscomb and David Hussey, Pietersen found a pair of willing assistants to run hard and exploit the MCG's vast expanses. The big ones came along too as Handcomb favoured the cut and whip while Hussey profited from slog-sweeps.

But when Kallis bowled Hussey with a magnificent yorker, it sparked a collapse as Stars lost six wickets for 45 runs.

Pietersen had drilled the first ball of the 15th over for six, but in the next one, a push to leg back ended up in the bowler Green's hands. With the stadium silent and the fielders confused, Pietersen simply walked.

Rob Quiney was through his shot early and popped a return catch to Russell, but Stars managed to finish on 176 thanks to some late heaves from Evan Gulbis and Adam Zampa. This despite three wickets off the final three balls of the innings - Zampa and Daniel Worrall were run out either side of Gulbis being magnificently caught on the midwicket fence by Green.

Khawaja ends the BBL with 345 runs in four innings, three of which were genuinely match-winning. He has been untouchable in the Powerplay, making the finest gaps look like vast craters and his timing takes the ball over the infield easily. Ben Hilfenhaus, in his first over, was driven down the ground twice, once along the deck and once through the air; Worrall was crunched through the covers, flicked over long-off for six and ramped over fine-leg for four. Khawaja was purring along.

At the other end, Jacques Kallis was a touch more labored. He managed to cut Michael Beer for a couple of fours but, after suffering cramp, slapped Adam Zampa straight to long-on. Watson came in at No. 3 and chipped Stoinis straight to midwicket.

Khawaja had survived two loud lbw shouts either side of lifting Zampa over down the ground for six, but fell to David Hussey, plopping a rank full toss straight to backward point. When Michael Hussey was bowled slog-sweeping by Zampa, and Russell edged Stoinis behind, Thunder were 146 for 5. They had lost five batsmen for 60 runs from being 86 for 0.

Aiden Blizzard hoicked Beer for four, then six, only to be run out by a superb direct hit from the left-arm spinner. Needing 14 from 12, Green drilled one over cover for four, survived a skied chance at midwicket and was caught at cover seconds later. The drama was clearly not yet done.

The final act read four required from the last over. So Ben Rohrer flicked to leg for two, and drove down the ground for six and under firework-filled skies, the Thunder fairytale was complete.

Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Stephen Connell on January 25, 2016, 10:46 GMT

    Everyone is talking about how Khawaja was hard done by well what about Clint McKay? He was given the flick by the selectors at the pinnacle of his game and after being names Australian one day player of the Year? He performed well form his Country but was disposed of like a used tissue! Khawaja golden child will get his chance so please stop crying about it!

  • Henry_Crun on January 25, 2016, 9:56 GMT

    @Andy Welsh - given Boland's red hot form in the one-dayers, I would have thought that him not being in the Stars lineup would be a plus. No-one has mentioned the most remarkable play of the night: Australia's worst fielder, Michael Beer, throwing the stumps down for a run-out. For a while I couldn't believe what I saw; that is until I realised that he'd almost certainly been aiming at the other end.

  • Andy Welch on January 25, 2016, 9:23 GMT

    Has anyone questioned how no Stars players returned from the National Team....? How Boland got a game for Aust day before BBL final after missing previous 2 games... How a National Selector is the Head of the Sydney Thunder..... ? Just sayin!

  • Vinod_Fab on January 25, 2016, 8:55 GMT

    Khawaja LBW was dead plumb and the result would have been much different had he was given out. KP should have been the MOM as his innings was critical one and no one substantially contributed as it's always the case.. :D :D

  • Vinod_Fab on January 25, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    Now Khawaja has been called up for WT20, what about Kevin Pietersen..??. Are England selectors that much dumb to not pick KP as he is in red hot form for past year or so in all T20 leagues and also bring experience into the table in India...

  • Micky.Panda on January 25, 2016, 8:20 GMT

    Katch47, If choosing between Khawaja or Lynn, for a player suited to all conditions and spin bowling, you have to take Khawaja. In easy batting conditions not turning, one would take Lynn as well, but not instead. Finch should not be the captain of the T20 squad as he doesn't have the run rate and sheer confidence to justify his spot. In India, Lynn may not be suited.

  • Flemo_Gilly on January 25, 2016, 6:49 GMT

    @no1again my kids are not the only one talking about khawaja, mark waugh who is a selector stated that he is batting better then Lara and Ponting called him the best batsman in the country and Rod marsh confirmed that khawaja is good for the T20 world cup squad. Stats can be skewed sometimes to suggest someone is in a form slump when he probably isn't, or vice versa, but there's no way of twisting those figures to suggest anything other than he is in rare air. And that's without even mentioning the manner in which he's made the runs - two centuries in a Test series against proper opposition, New Zealand, and then a succession of tournament-defining innings in the Big Bash that careered Sydney Thunder to the title. That form shouldn't just edge you into a squad. It should just about make sure the squad is picked around you so pick around khawaja as he is a must in all 3 formats

  • MASTER_BATOR on January 25, 2016, 6:09 GMT

    If AUSsie selectors were to pick either Lynn or Khawaja who would they choose? I don't know if there is room for both of them cuz AUS squad is already swarming with too many specialist batters.

  • No_1_again on January 25, 2016, 4:28 GMT

    @FLEMO_GILLY

    Yes, only the kids talk about him, no the AUs selectors. They know only the name Marsh. Did you see the NZ ODI team selection?

  • hycIass on January 25, 2016, 4:18 GMT

    @paulrampley fantastic summary, mind boggling how khawaja can be ignored

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