Sydney Sixers 1 for 74 (Hughes 37) beat Brisbane Heat 73 (Abbott 4-11) by nine wickets
When one team is playing for a finals berth, and one team is playing for pride, there shouldn't be a contest. But the Brisbane Heat put a huge dent in their own playoffs hopes, after they were bowled out for 73 in the 17th over, the third-lowest BBL score, while a Sydney Sixers side with no hope of finals action ran the target down in 10 overs.
With only two wins from eight games before this match, the Sixers shouldn't have been a threat, but they made use of some inconsistent bounce at the Sydney Cricket Ground, to the delight of their magenta crowd.
Heat capitulate after early collapse
Not much has gone right for the Heat off the field lately. Demolition man Chris Lynn has been absent with a calf strain. Joe Burns took up his mantle with some success, but was also withdrawn from this match after tearing his adductor tendon in training.
That left everything up to Brendon McCullum, but the former New Zealand captain couldn't deliver, skewing a Johan Botha delivery for a sprawling Carlos Brathwaite catch at mid-off. Marnus Labuschagne was distracted by a hit to his box before chipping one up to square leg, and Sam Heazlett toe-ended a slog to mid-on.
Three catches in the circle, and a score of 3 for 12 after four overs, and the Heat had all but capitulated already. The Heat could still make it with a last win, but only if the Hurricanes and Renegades both drop their last two games.
Lyon takes flight, Abbott takes advantage
Nathan Lyon is always trying to make a point about his limited-overs skills. Playing his third BBL game after Test duty, he bowled as he ever has in this format. Remember this was a spinner who first made his mark playing T20s for South Australia, tossing the ball up and beating batsmen in the air.
He did the same on Thursday, first drawing Heazlett's false shot, then later deceiving Ben Cutting to have him caught off the sweep at deep square leg. "Nathan Lyon, he's done a lot of that in the last 12 to 18 months - clapping, watching batsmen walk off," said Adam Gilchrist on the television commentary, as Lyon wrapped up figures of 2 for 17 from his four overs.
Sean Abbott finished up with the best numbers though, cleaning up the middle and lower order by consistently landing the ball back of a length, and getting a bit of venom out of a pitch that sometimes kept low. His haul was 4 for 11, with a couple of snorters gloved through to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill the highlight.
Missing player laments players who went missing
As the early slump of 3 for 12 slid away further to 7 for 53, then 73 all out, Lynn could only watch on. He had a good view, given he was down at the ground in team kit, and interviewed mid-match on the boundary line. "Recovery's going well, had my first hit today and went for a run," he told Lisa Sthalekar. "At the time the team sheet hadn't been put in, and I was trying to get the coaches to get me over the line, but couldn't get in."
He was blunt, though, about his team-mates' work in his absence, citing a pitch with variable bounce as the reason that his side should have taken a more circumspect approach. "We had to fight down and dig in, so some really soft dismissals are disappointing."
Yasir we can, except when we can't
Defending such a small total, the Heat had no option but to attack. McCullum is exactly that kind of captain. Needing to make something happen, he allotted the second over to Pakistani legspinner Yasir Shah. McCullum also stationed a slip for his bowler. It nearly worked.
Yasir didn't quite land a couple, dragging them a bit short but putting enough overspin on them to make them shoot on straight. The first deceived the left-handed Daniel Hughes and drew the edge, but it flashed just wide of the slip for four. A couple of balls later, Joe Denly played the exact same shot to the same kind of ball, and also saw his edge fly wide.
To defend that kind of target, everything has to go exactly right. Yasir saw a glimpse of a world in which that might have happened, but had to accept that it remained a dimension away. He eventually got Hughes lbw with a lovely dipping legbreak, but by then the batsman had made half of the required score.