Melbourne Stars v Sydney Sixers, BBL 2016-17, Melbourne January 21, 2017

Abbott, Botha cameos put Sixers in semis

Sydney Sixers 160 for 7 (Hughes 34, Abbott 33*, Botha 25, Boland 3-37) beat Melbourne Stars 156 for 8 (Wright 62, Pietersen 39, Dwarshuis 3-25) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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'Abbott played an absolute blinder'

In a season where they have been brilliant or dire, Sydney Sixers beat Melbourne Stars by three wickets with an over to spare to seal the third spot in the points table, setting up a semi-final against Brisbane Heat at the Gabba. The Stars made the semi-finals too, at the expense of their cross-town rivals Melbourne Renegades. They will travel to Perth to face the Scorchers on Tuesday.

Luke Wright lived up to his reputation as the man who comes to life on the MCG's biggest nights with his second successive half-century, but the Stars - missing six first-choice players to injury and international call-ups - fell away after he was dismissed. Chasing 157 for a place in the semi-finals, the Sixers then pulled off an impressive come-from-behind win.

Their top six struggled and it looked like their season was over, but Sean Abbott and Johan Botha picked their targets effectively to add 59 in 28 balls. With the scores level, Botha was caught and bowled by Scott Boland, but it was too little, too late for the Stars. Ben Dwarshius edged the next ball for four to complete the chase.

Stars' flying start and grand stall
Rob Quiney and Wright both stroked their first balls through the covers for four, and looked set to rack up a huge total. Quiney went after Johan Botha and smote Sean Abbott over long-on for six. After he fell to the final ball of the Powerplay - caught at short fine leg off Moises Henriques' first over of the tournament - Wright kicked on while Kevin Pietersen accumulated. The England pair put on 71 and, on a belting pitch, 128 for 1, with five overs left in the innings, looked a very strong position.

The Stars, however, ended up with a modest total. Wright was bowled by Lyon when he tried to accelerate further, then the promoted Evan Gulbis was stumped. Seb Gotch was caught behind in the next over, then David Hussey and Pietersen fell to leave the Stars at 6 for 150 in 19 overs. Sam Harper and Ben Hilfenhaus fell in the final over of the innings, which yielded only six runs. In the last 27 balls, the Stars had lost 7 for 26 and managed just eight runs in boundaries. In the absence of their Australian call-ups, the Stars looked thin on the batting front, and in the end they had a tail like a diplodocus - starting at No.4! Somehow, they had only five bowling options.

Luke Wright struck his second successive fifty but it was not enough for Melbourne Stars to put it across Sydney Sixers © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Lyon and the power of spin
Nathan Lyon started with a wide, but barely put a foot wrong thereafter, and played a vital role in the Stars' stall. He tossed the ball up and gave it a rip, and went for only 18 runs in four overs. In the Sixers' chase, Liam Bowe, the left-arm wristspinner, produced three outstanding overs - and even dismissed Moises Henriques - but was picked apart in his fourth, which turned the game.

Haddin's strange night
Brad Haddin, miked up by Channel Ten, began his evening by making a joke about the Brad Hodge controversy and his funny old evening continued. He stumped Gulbis via a triple-fumble, then off his helmet (which is legal in the BBL) took a wonderful one-handed diving catch to get rid of Gotch. Haddin's innings was skittish too, and it happened in the middle of the Sixers' collapse. He fell for 10 in the 14th over when he holed out to long-on. Two balls later, Nic Maddinson was caught at backward point, extending his poor form, and the Sixers' season looked over.

Sean Abbott is congratulated on the wicket of Ben Hilfenhaus © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Abbott's expanding skillset
Everyone knows Abbott can bat, but he had not shown it so far this season. When he ambled to the crease, he had three more wickets (16, the most in the competition) than runs this season, and six of his 13 had come in one shot to beat the Heat. Here, he played a blinder. He knew that the Stars have struggled to replace John Hastings at the death, and that Michael Beer and Liam Bowe had an over each. He went after both Bowe and Beer. By then, the game was up; Ben Hilfenhaus was flayed for 12 too. In finishing terms, this was a mini-masterpiece.

Where are they now?
It was a bad day for Melbourne in the BBL. Had the Stars won by 33 runs - a distinct possibility when Maddinson fell - they would have finished top. Instead, they slid to fourth. The Renegades finished fifth, and Sixers - who were top before their derby drubbing by Thunder a week ago - moved to third. As a result, if they and the Stars win their semi-finals, the SCG will host the final.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Earl on January 23, 2017, 9:57 GMT

    I'm not a huge fan of T20!!! But looking at the form of the finalists, AGAINST EACH OTHER! My prediction is the Sixers are 5:2 [49:20 to be exact] favorites against the Heat... & The Scorchers are rated at 5:3 [20:12] against the Stars... Should both favorites win (43% chance): The Sixers 5:2 [49:20] are favored v the Scorchers.

  • Chris_P on January 21, 2017, 23:18 GMT

    TWISTER292. I'm not a huge fan of T20, but certainly appreciate the entertainment factor & if you're disappointed, there is no pleasing you. Record ratings, record crowd attendances & overall positive responses from crowds suggests you are very much in the minority on this point. This format is about entertainment for the masses, forget about cricket technique or even cricket. It is sports entertainment played with cricket gear.

  • Cricinfouser on January 21, 2017, 23:13 GMT

    Interestingly, the Sixers go into the semis having beaten all three other semi-finalists, but having lost to three of the four teams that missed out.

  • dunger.bob on January 21, 2017, 21:44 GMT

    Well, I was entertained. Haddin had me in stitches with his goofy efforts behind the stumps. Seriously, that stumping was the messiest thing I've seen since the house got flooded. In slo-mo it was spectacularly inept yet somehow got the desired result. Beautiful. .. anyway, the wife will be happy the Sixers are in the semi's. She doesn't actually know anything about cricket but she thinks their uniforms are 'pretty'. Good a reason as any I guess.

  • Alexk400 on January 21, 2017, 20:40 GMT

    Abbot seems to be cleverest of the bunch. But he need speed or good batting skills to get into T20 team. For me he is already qualified to be in T20 based on bowling skills alone. From tv point of view he looks nomal and nothing special but he somehow make batsman miss the ball. Intresting

  • Twister292 on January 21, 2017, 18:22 GMT

    What this match, and the last one b/w the Renegades and Heat showed, is the quality of the fast bowlers in this BBL has been poor. Nobody has really delivered decent bowling in pressure situations, especially when defending. Tremain, Pattinson, Rimmington have all been wayward and costly throughout. Same with Hilfenhause and Boland.

    And with a lot of teams, batting has been very dependent on a few people scoring. The Stars' weak middle/lower order has been exposed time and again, and even for Renegades only Finch has been consistent.

    Overall this has been a mediocre tournament at best...we need a serious look at the quality of the players and the teams need serious introspection next season to get better balanced players, especially bowlers who can handle pressure.

  • InsideHedge on January 21, 2017, 13:52 GMT

    Luke Wright has done very well in the Big Bash for such a high profile team. Quite a contrast too from playing for Sussex at small grounds in front of small crowds (for county games altho they do pull in good crowds for limited overs games); here he plays at the MCG in front of packed houses. As an overseas player, there's a higher expectation too but he's sustained a contract with the Stars for a number of years now.

    Somehow, he didn't quite have the luck with England. It's hard to see him make the England team now with so many outstanding players jockeying for a handful of places.

  • Marcio on January 21, 2017, 13:50 GMT

    Pretty much sums up T20 cricket. If you have someone - anyone - slashing hard at the end, even a bowler, you have a 50-50 chance. Seen it repeatedly in this format. And I am from NSW.

  • Baundele on January 21, 2017, 12:21 GMT

    That is a nicely orchestrated match, where the Abbott Botha partnership had the final say. Excellent partnership in a must win match. Sixers have also avoided Heat in the semi final. Effectively, it is a win-win result for both teams. Feel sad for Renegades, though.

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