Sydney Thunder 4 for 182 (Ferguson 113*, Kelly 1-25) beat Perth Scorchers 4 for 181 (Shaun Marsh 96*, Green 2-35) by six wickets
A masterful Callum Ferguson century negated an earlier Shaun Marsh gem and powered Sydney Thunder to an impressive victory to leave Perth Scorchers' finals hopes hanging by a thread.
After being sent in, Shaun Marsh's return seemingly sparked Scorchers, the batsman's 96 not out off 55 balls being the backbone of the side's sizeable 4 for 181. Ferguson, however, outshone that with a great knock of 113 not out off 53 to guide Thunder to a crucial victory.
A rampaging Ferguson smashed eight sixes and eight fours in his tour de force knock. He also received invaluable support from debutant Matthew Gilkes, who made up for dropping Shaun Marsh in the first over the match by scoring a fluent 51. With this victory, Thunder are back in the top four, while bottom-placed Scorchers are almost certain to miss the knockout stages for the first time.
Shaun Marsh survives two dropped sitters
In a major shakeup, Scorchers dropped veteran opener Michael Klinger, the BBL's highest run-scorer ever, after he averaged just 12.77 in the tournament. They had a ready-made replacement in Shaun Marsh although he almost fell for a golden duck only to be reprieved by nervous wicketkeeper Gilkes.
A leaden-footed Marsh nicked a full Gurinder Sandhu delivery to Gilkes, who fumbled the straightforward chance and was unable to snare it on the juggle.
Thunder quickly regrouped with Nathan McAndrew's first delivery trapping Cameron Bancroft lbw, leading Mitchell Marsh coming to the crease slightly higher in the order than expected.
Mitchell Marsh, who like his brother made his BBL return after national duty, unleashed several blows to ensure Scorchers had a fruitful Powerplay. Shaun Marsh, conversely, was watchful apart from one trademark exquisite straight drive off Chris Jordan.
Shaun Marsh tried to make his move in the ninth over against the spin of Fawad Ahmed but miscued to deep midwicket only to receive another reprieve as Daniel Sams fumbled the chance. Mitchell Marsh, however, did not have the same fortune when he skied a Chris Green delivery into the hands of Sandhu to leave Scorchers 2 for 68 in the tenth over.
Shaun Marsh puts the foot down
Ashton Turner has been Scorchers' talisman in the tournament but fell for just 4 as the hosts wobbled midway. Thunder captain Shane Watson relied on his spinners, who bowled nine straight overs, to slow the scoring until Hilton Cartwright smashed 16 off Green in the 14th over to help Scorchers' regain the momentum.
Cartwright fell shortly, putting the burden on Shaun Marsh to finish it off and the left-hander put the foot down by blasting the normally reliable Sams in the 18th over for 20 runs. Sams, literally, was feeling the pain when Marsh clubbed a delivery straight back into his right ankle, forcing him off the ground.
Marsh started the final over on 79 and appeared set for his maiden BBL century when he smashed 14 runs off the first three deliveries from Jordan. After missing out on the next two deliveries, Marsh could only hit the final delivery, a full toss outside off, for a single to fall four short of a century. But thanks to Marsh's heroics, Scorchers pummelled 55 runs off the final three overs.
Ferguson and Gilkes hammer Scorchers
Jason Behrendorff, another of Scorchers' key inclusions, claimed the prized wicket of Watson in the fourth over, but Ferguson came out blazing to fuel Thunder's hope. He signalled his intent with a brutal blow over Behrendorff's head for six and was joined in by Gilkes, who was keen to make up for his earlier blunder behind the stumps.
Gilkes' promotion up the order proved a masterstroke. The 19-year-old was not intimidated by short-pitched bowling from Nathan Coulter-Nile, even upper-cutting the bowler for a six.
Ferguson took a liking to Usman Qadir's innocuous spin and smashed a trio of sixes in the tenth over to power Thunder into a strong position at the halfway point.
Ferguson shuts the door on the Scorchers
Ferguson scored his 1000th BBL run in style with a commanding boundary over extra cover off Mitchell Marsh and then outdid himself next ball with a six to bring up the century partnership. Gilkes reached an impressive half-century off 36 balls before holing out in the 15th over.
The match tightened when Anton Devcich and Sams fell but Ferguson had other ideas as he smashed three consecutive boundaries off Behrendorff in the 18th over. He then reached his century with an upper-cut six in the penultimate over before sealing the deal with four balls to spare.