Botha the difference as Sixers cruise home
Sydney Sixers 4 for 132 (Billings 40, Botha 30*) beat Perth Scorchers 8 for 130 (Mitchell Marsh 31*, Whiteman 28) by six wickets
The Sydney Sixers produced a sublime spin bowling display and a composed run chase to dispatch the Perth Scorchers by six wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Sixers restricted Scorchers, who elected to bat, to 8 for 130, on what appeared a good batting surface. Mitchell Marsh was left to salvage the innings with an uncharacteristic subdued unbeaten 29-ball 31 after they slumped to 8 for 107.
Sam Billings began Sixers' chase with a 30-ball 40. The inventive right-hander was promoted to the top of the order after his England teammate Jason Roy was withdrawn from the line-up after injuring his back at training. Johan Botha finished the job with a composed unbeaten 30 and was a thoroughly deserving of the Man of the Match award for an excellent all-round display.
Sixers spin a web
The Scorchers produced a dominant batting display in their tournament opener on a fast WACA surface. There, they took 56 in the powerplay overs against Adelaide Strikers to set up a big win. At the SCG, Sixers employed their spinners for five of the six powerplay overs, and it worked brilliantly. The Scorchers scored just 34 runs from those five overs for the loss of Michael Klinger. Shaun Marsh managed just three from eight deliveries on his return from injury before falling to Doug Bollinger. Sixers spin trio of Botha, Steve O'Keefe and Will Somerville applied the squeeze in the middle overs; their combined figures read 4 for 59 in 10 overs.
Botha a potential Australia T20 bolter
Botha has played 123 international matches for South Africa across formats, the last of which was in October 2012. Prior to this tournament, Botha was given Australian citizenship after he complied with the eligibility criterion. He produced a stunning all-round display against the Scorchers, taking 1 for 26, including bowling in the powerplay, and scoring 30* off 19 balls to see his side home. He also took an outstanding catch on the boundary to remove Sam Whiteman. Considering Australia picked a 43-year old Brad Hogg for the 2014 World T20, there's perhaps a case of Botha being considered for the shortest format too?
Langer's left-right theory
Scorchers coach Justin Langer has impressed upon his side the need to have a flexible batting line-up; the need to have left-right batting partnerships throughout the innings. But the timing of the dismissals meant that the dangerous Mitchell Marsh walked out at No. 6 in the 12th over and in form Ashton Turner batted at No. 8 despite producing a match-winning 19-ball 44* against the Strikers prior to Christmas. Marsh had to play a subdued role to steady the ship while Turner was forced to hit-out straight away.
Tye-ing them down
Andrew Tye produced one of the best spells of the tournament so far. He deceived Brad Haddin with a clever knuckle ball and conceded just two runs in his first over. He went on to add the wickets of Moises Henriques and Jordan Silk into his kitty, finishing with 3 for 15. He has represented Australia in three T20 internationals and his variety of slower balls, changes of pace and yorkers make him a difficult bowler to get away.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth