Sydney Thunder 6 for 166 (Ferguson 47) beat Hobart Hurricanes 4 for 166 (Bailey 53, Wade 45, McDermott 44*) by four wickets
After the astonishing display by Brisbane Heat on Friday, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Sydney Thunder to stay alive and the task of overhauling Hobart Hurricanes' total in just 11.3 overs proved too much, meaning their eventual victory was a hollow one.
The toss going Thunder's way meant they knew exactly what would be required in the chase, but they did not give themselves the best chance with a poor display in the field (although the Hurricanes weren't great, either). A brief shower early in the Hurricanes' innings cut the match to 19 overs and meant Thunder needed 166 in less than 12 overs.
They gave it a go while there was a mathematical chance, but there was no repeat of the Max Bryant-Ben Cutting show at the Gabba. The forlorn attempt to keep up with the monstrous asking rate led to a middle-order collapse against the spinners, but the early charge meant the required rate for a win was under control and Callum Ferguson finished an impressive tournament strongly.
For the Hurricanes, this match was about not losing momentum with a home semi-final already secured, so the defeat would be a disappointment. Matthew Wade continued his prolific form but this time the main substance of the innings came from a fourth-wicket stand of 94 in 9.5 overs between George Bailey and Ben McDermott. A concern ahead of the semi-final will be Riley Meredith's form after he went for 52, although James Faulkner should be available on Thursday.
When you knew your chase is going to be even more against the clock than usual, taking every chance in the field is going to be vital. So, to put it mildly, Fawad Ahmed had a shocker as he twice dropped one of the most in-form batsmen of the tournament. In the second over, Wade sliced a chance to short third man, it wasn't travelling very quickly, but Fawad couldn't hold on above his head. Then, in the third over, he had a chance to make amends when Wade pulled Pat Cummins towards long leg but running in he could not get a stable base and ended up trying to take it on his knees sliding in.
Cummins was playing his first BBL match in two years - his last outing had also been against the Hurricanes back in BBL06 - and as in the Tests he pushed the speed gun towards 150kph while claiming the Hurricanes' two star batsmen. D'Arcy Short had his off stump clipped as he gave himself room, and then, when Cummins returned with the Thunder desperate for a wicket, he delivered first ball as Wade was caught behind trying to steer to third man. But even someone as good as Cummins couldn't escape some punishment. The ball after the brief rain break, he sent down a short delivery which was called no-ball, and the subsequent free hit was swung for six by Wade. Then, in his final over, Bailey took two boundaries as the Hurricanes put their foot down.
Middle order limbers up
This match may turn out to be useful preparation for the knockouts for the Hurricanes as two of their middle-order batsmen enjoyed substantial time in the middle. Bailey and McDermott both bided their time early in the partnership when the Thunder's bowling was at its best before making hay in the closing overs.
Bailey had 11 off 14 at one stage, which turned into 53 off 35 when he was run out off the last delivery. McDermott produced the biggest shot of the night, a mighty blow off Daniel Sams sailing 110 meters over deep midwicket, and though he didn't quite find the dominance that has previously earned him Australia honours, it was a timely innings with more important matches to come. The Hurricanes now have four batsmen with more than 300 runs in the tournament heading into the semi-final.
Too much to do
Under normal circumstances, the Thunder's Powerplay of 1 for 59 off five overs (it was reduced by one by the rain) would have been excellent, but here it was still well short of the required rate. Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja played their shots with abandon, handing Meredith another tough evening although he did pin Khawaja on the helmet with a rapid short delivery. The Hurricanes spinners took advantage of the Thunder's attempts at the impossible as Qais Ahmed and Short took 4 for 49 off eight overs between them.
At 5 for 85, a conventional victory looked a steep challenge, but Ferguson and Chris Green showed impressive professionalism to add 78 and secure a win that will leave them pondering what could have been.