Sydney Sixers 1 for 160 (Henriques 76*, Hughes 54*) beat Sydney Thunder 8 for 159 (Gibson 53) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sydney Thunder made a sobering start to their defence of the Big Bash League title won last summer, well beaten by a focused Sydney Sixers on the opening night of the tournament at a sold-out Sydney Showgrounds. After the Thunder lost a ruinous 5 for 15 midway through their innings, the Sixers' captain Moises Henriques combined with Daniel Hughes to drive the Sixers home.
Captain in command
Henriques led the Sixers with plenty of panache on the night, shuffling his bowlers expertly and not being spooked by the crushing way the Thunder ended their Powerplay, racing to 64 for 1. Instead he used spin to shift the game's momentum on a somewhat tacky surface, ensuring the hosts finished some way short of their desired total.
He followed up with an innings of common sense and plenty of strength, taking a particular shine to the offerings of his state team-mate, Pat Cummins. As plenty of batsmen the world over can relate, muscling Cummins is no easy task. Henriques' reward was the top score of the match, and a winning start to the Sixers' campaign.
Bat in black
A technicolour crowd of 21,798 was in good voice throughout, but there were more than a few gasps when Andre Russell walked out brandishing a jet-black bat - a sight not seen since the little-remembered Stanford T20 tournaments in the Caribbean. While the Sixers' gloveman Haddin noted on the broadcast that the ball bore a few black marks for Russell's contact, a CA spokesperson confirmed it was all above board.
"A player can use a coloured bat subject to CA approval. The bat may be the same colour as the Club's primary colour, or black. CA retains the right to withdraw approval in its absolute discretion. The umpires can also request a player change the bat if they believe it affects the integrity of the match."
When the fifth and sixth overs of the Thunder innings - bowled by Joe Mennie and Doug Bollinger - went for a combined 39 runs, the Sixers seemed to have lost their early control over proceedings. However Henriques refused to panic, instead reverting to Steve O'Keefe's spin and the slinging action of Sean Abbott. The next two overs cost only seven, and meant Eoin Morgan was spoiling for a boundary when the new Australian citizen Johan Botha entered the attack. First ball and a slow, spinning off break attracted the faintest of touches from Morgan through to Brad Haddin.
That wicket led to another tight over, this time costing only three, and Henriques then swung Mennie back into action against batsmen now questioning themselves a fraction. Jason Roy flew through the air at backward point to snaffle a cut shot from the captain Ben Rohrer, a critical wicket given there is no longer a Michael Hussey or Jacques Kallis adding their knowhow to the Thunder line-up. Two balls later Jake Doran also fell, this time lbw, pushing momentum well and truly towards the Sixers.
When Russell's black-bat cameo was ended by a Bollinger short ball, Henriques pulled another clever rein by posting Daniel Hughes at slip for Chris Green, who obliged by edging directly to him. In all the sequence had cost the Thunder 5 for 15 in 23 balls, a period that was always going to leave them within range of the Sixers' power-hitters.
Hunter and hunted
For the first four years of the BBL, the Sixers were Sydney's dominant team, the Thunder their underachieving western counterparts. Last season turned things on their head, as the Thunder soared to the title while the Sixers did not even reach the semis. An off-season to think about that scenario clearly left an impression on the Sixers, who have stolen an early march, not only their crosstown rivals, but also the competition as a whole.