Jos Buttler, Fawad Ahmed complete Thunder's win over cross-city rivals Sixers
Sydney Thunder 9 for 169 (Buttler 63, Curran 3-24) beat Sydney Sixers 9 for 148 (Curran 62, Sams 3-30, Fawad 3-33) by 21 runs
England fast bowler Tom Curran took 3 for 24 and smacked his highest T20 score against cross-city rivals Sydney Thunder, but his Sydney Sixers team failed to cross the line, losing by 21 runs at the Spotless Stadium on Christmas eve.
Curran's 40-ball 62 gave Sixers some hope, after they were reduced to 6 for 56 following legspinner Fawad Ahmed's three-wicket haul, but his dismissal in the 19th over ended any chance of a Sixers win.
Thunder's first-innings score was set up by Jos Buttler's 37-ball 63 after they were asked to bat, and were destined for a score close to 200 at one stage, but a flurry of late wickets off Curran and left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe kept their total down to an achievable 169.
A solid bowling effort, however - barring the time when Curran and Sean Abbott added 88 for the seventh wicket - helped Thunder win the game comprehensively. Fawad was assisted by Daniel Sams, whose medium pace fetched him three late wickets as well.
Buttler finds his groove early
Thunder lost captain Shane Watson for a sluggish 19, and with No. 3 Callum Ferguson taking his time to find the bat's middle, it was down to Buttler to keep the scoreboard ticking in the Powerplay. He hoicked Sean Abbott, in particular, over midwicket a few times and hit young legspinner Lloyd Pope out of the attack. His blitz ensured Thunder were past fifty in the Powerplay and had crossed triple digits by the time he fell for 63 in the 12th over. At that stage, Thunder were on course for a score close to 200.
Play it again, Sams
Thunder, however, lost their way after Buttler's dismissal. A mix-up sent Ferguson back for a 24-ball 23, and Joe Root was clean bowled by an O'Keefe wrong'un that slipped through his defense. Jason Sangha and Chris Green fell to Curran in a bid to accelerate, and from 4 for 147, Thunder had lost three more wickets for no run.
But in the midst of Thunder's batting crisis, Sams - who smashed a 21-ball 34 in their previous game too - struck three fours and two sixes in a cameo of 28 in just 11 balls to hold up one end. He used the pace of Sixers' bowlers to particularly good effect, but fell trying to deflect another late glance off pacer Ben Dwarshuis. His innings, however, ensured Thunder set their rivals a target of 170.
Fawad owns the post-Powerplay bout
Sixers were in a spot of bother early in their chase, after Sam Rainbird's late-moving delivery clipped the top of Joe Denly's off stump. Jack Edwards then followed Denly after legspinner Jono Cook's googly trapped him lbw. With Moises Henriques failing to clear Sams' half-volley over mid-on in the sixth over, Thunder were at 3 for 32 after the Powerplay.
But the real knockout blow came from Fawad. He took two middle-order wickets in his first over - and the innings' seventh - twice rattling Jordan Silk and Daniel Hughes' stumps off carbon-copy googly deliveries and followed it up by trapping Phillipe lbw in the ninth over. That sent Sixers into the final ten overs with more than 100 runs behind and with only four wickets in hand.
Curran displays heart and muscle
With Abbott at the other end, Curran followed up his three-for with his second T20 fifty. They added 88 for the seventh wicket after the early batting wobble. Regular boundaries (in all, Curran struck nine) gave Sixers a glimmer of hope as they crossed hundred, and with three overs to go, his blitz had brought the equation down to only 50 runs.
Seventeen runs came off the 18th over, helped by two fours and a six by Curran, but his dismissal and the subsequent of Abbott and O'Keefe consigned the team in pink to their first defeat of the season. Thunder, however, would be disappointed despite the win. At one stage, they looked to be winning with a much larger run margin.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo