Sydney Thunder 2 for 100 (Patterson 38*) beat Sydney Sixers 9 for 99 (Fawad 4-14, Brathwaite 3-21) by eight wickets
Can the Sydney Thunder qualify for the finals? Can they?
Ten days ago, the champions had lost their first four games, and were staring down the barrel of elimination from the competition. Then Eoin Morgan smote Ben Hilfenhaus into the western Sydney sky and their season lived on. They then won well in Hobart and now, sweetest of all, they thrashed their crosstown rivals the Sydney Sixers by eight wickets, having limited them to just 99 in front of 39,756 people, a domestic cricket record for New South Wales. The emphatic margin means victory in their final game, against the struggling Adelaide Strikers, gives them a shot at making the finals.
For the Sixers, this was a drubbing and a humiliation. The effect on their already poor NRR has been so profound that despite already having four wins on the board - as many as any team - they likely need to win their last game against the Melbourne Stars to make the semi-finals. Still, with just seven of the 32 pool games left, no team is out, and none have qualified for the semi-finals; the BBL's evenness remains one of its major attractions.
Fawad the destroyer
Chief among the reasons for the Thunder's win was the brilliant bowling performance of Fawad Ahmed. The legspinner's four overs contained 12 dots, conceded just one boundary, and were worth no more than five runs each. Handily, he also picked up four wickets. Coming on after a Powerplay that had picked up both the Sixers openers at a cost of just 36, he picked up Nic Maddinson and Moises Henriques, both caught slog-sweeping, off consecutive deliveries in his second over. Colin Munro was done in by a flat legspinner in his third, then Sean Abbott slapped straight to midwicket, where Carlos Brathwaite took the catch. Fawad's 4 for 14 was the best-ever figures for the Thunder, and the best in a Sydney derby.
For the Thunder, there were decisive bowling contributions beyond Fawad. Chris Green kicked things off, conceding just 12 from his three overs in the Powrerplay, as well as bowling Michael Lumb. Brathwaite hammered a relentless line and length picked up Brad Haddin, Johan Botha and Nathan Lyon in his second, third and fourth overs, while Shane Watson was supremely tight and dismissed Daniel Hughes just as he was looking in ominous form.
The strange decision and the disastrous consequences
The Sixers had played six games before this one, and chased in all of them. They had won four and lost just two. So why, upon winning the toss, did Moises Henriques opt to bat first? (This was the first time in 25 games this BBL that the captain winning the toss had opted to bat.)
Whatever the reason, the outcome was shocking. Beyond the obviously gruesome total and the loss of all but one of their wickets, there were some striking statistics from their batting effort. They hit just seven boundaries, and failed to hit any in the second half of their innings, with a Haddin cover drive after 9.3 overs their last. They faced 53 dots balls went 27 balls (between 13.5 and 18.3 overs) without taking more than one from a delivery. They failed to take more than five from any of the last 12 overs, and they scored more than eight just once (the second, when Lumb got after Clint McKay). The biggest partnership was for the second wicket, and was worth just 22. It was a sorry tale, and their equal lowest ever score.
Thunder, clearly, have been hard at work on the training ground. But they have obviously been hitting the dance floor, too. Brathwaite unveiled the BBL dab in the win over Hurricanes and he had three more opportunities to show it off here too, with Fawad joining him for a synchronised handshake, too. Only the goosestepping, tan-lined pair of streakers later in the night got a bigger cheer.
A stroll of a chase
With the skies greying, Thunder were half way to the target after 29 balls, and had not lost a wicket. The low target gave James Vince the licence to throw his bat around - his on-driven four and six over cover will live long in the memory - while Kurtis Patterson used the opportunity to play himself back into form.
Sean Abbott dismissed Vince and Watson, both pulling, but on the Thunder charged, romping home, with Ben Rohrer heaving hard. In the blink of an eye they were home, with half their deliveries to spare.