Melbourne Stars 5 for 132 (Handscomb 70, Dwarshuis 3-26) beat Sydney Sixers 9 for 130 (Silk 41*, Coleman 3-18) by five wickets
Different format, different conditions, different bowlers, but Peter Handscomb produced a thrilling response to his Test omission as he hammered a 22-ball half-century to power Melbourne Stars to their opening victory of the 2018 Big Bash campaign.
The Stars were chasing a modest 131 and Handscomb's innings made it a long way short of competitive as he tore into pace and spin alike on an SCG surface where all other batsmen had found timing the ball hard work.
Sydney Sixers limped to 9 for 130 against a Stars attack well suited to the conditions. The spinners, led by the ebullient Sandeep Lamichhane, took 4 for 62 from 11 overs between them and the slower-ball variations of Jackson Coleman and Dwayne Bravo, who both struck with their first deliveries, bagged five wickets.
The result lifted the Stars off the bottom of the embryonic table and left the Sixers with two defeats following their opening-match victory against the Scorchers which had raised expectations.
Sixers' top-order worries
It has not been a great start to the BBL for the Sixers' top four, among whom Joe Denly, Jack Edwards and Moises Henriques are yet to reach 30 runs for the tournament in three innings. They got away with it against the Scorchers when a stand of 124 between Daniel Hughes and Jordan Silk provided a match-winning total. But, against Sydney Thunder, they slid to 6 for 56 which couldn't be saved, despite the efforts of Tom Curran, and this time they were 6 for 70 before the last four wickets forged 60.
That was largely due to Silk's 41 off 37 balls. There was not much more he could do than try to see out the innings and he managed just two boundaries - one of them off the final ball - but he is the Sixers' highest scorer so far. There could well be a case for moving him up the order.
Another star turn
Lamichhane has made a terrific start to the campaign and now sits jointly at the top of the early wicket-taking chart. He was fortunate to gain Curran's wicket as replays showed the ball was comfortably missing leg when Curran tried the reverse sweep, but the first strike to remove Henriques was all his own skill. A perfectly-pitched googly spun past the inside edge and slammed into the front pad to continue Henriques lean start to the competition.
With each success - and plenty of moments in between - came a huge smile from Lamichhane. He is having the time of his life. As was the case in Canberra in the Stars' opening match, there was a group of Nepal fans cheering on every move of his at the SCG. They even brought large cutouts of their hero. When Lamichhane went back to the boundary, he saw these giant versions of himself, gave another huge smile and an appreciative clap to the fans.
Handy night for Handscomb
Handscomb was quickly released from Australia's Test squad after his Boxing Day omission so he could play the BBL. A very sensible decision for all concerned. And he did not waste time making an impact for his T20 team. His evening started well with a superb piece of glovework to stump Edwards. Beaten by Adam Zampa's second-ball leg-break, Edwards lifted his foot out of the crease and Handscomb timed his move perfectly to break the stumps before the toe was grounded.
Then, with the bat, it all looked somewhat different to his Test struggles. He was making a far more positive forward movement into the ball, albeit against a very different attack than the one he faced in Adelaide or Perth. Still, it was a show of mental strength that he could move on from the recent disappointments and come out swinging - maybe it was even cathartic.
Handscomb's off-the-mark shot was a pull for six and he used swift footwork against the spinners. He plundered 14 off Curran's first over, also tore into Greg West and was largely responsible for overs six, seven and nine going for a combined 52 runs. None of it meant the Australia selectors had made a mistake (although those who booed Mitchell Marsh may disagree), but it was a reminder of the side of Handscomb's game that gets so many people excited.