Sydney Sixers 3 for 180 (Philippe 83*, Avendano 47, Siddle 1-29) beat Adelaide Strikers 6 for 176 (Wells 40*, Pope 2-41) by seven wickets
A stunning display of strokeplay from wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe and an impressive fightback from the Sydney Sixers bowlers, led by the returning Josh Hazlewood, earned them their fifth win of the season. Chasing 177 against the Adelaide Strikers at the sell-out Coffs Harbour ground with nearly 10,000 spectators, the Sixers openers Philippe and Justin Avendano put on 72 in under nine overs to set the platform. Avendano fell for a 33-ball 47 but the Strikers' total wasn't steep enough on a batsman-friendly pitch as Philippe saw them through for a seven-wicket win.
Avendano fires the engine, Philippe puts out Rashid Khan
The 22-year-old Philippe had been called an "excitement machine" by Mike Hesson, who secured him at base price for Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL auction last month, and he showed exactly why. While Avendano took on the quicks early on, Philippe proved his worth when Rashid Khan bowled the last over of the powerplay. Off his first ball against Khan, Philippe swept the spinner fine for four and two balls later, he picked the quicker delivery and hammered it for six to make it a 12-run over.
Avendano showed his intent early against the fast bowlers. The first balls he faced from Michael Neser, Billy Stanlake, Harry Conway and Peter Siddle all went for boundaries; including a six against Siddle. It showed Avendano, who joined the squad on Saturday and came in for regular captain Moises Henriques (missing out to attend the birth of his first child), wasn't going to let the experienced names dominate in only his fourth T20. He pulled and drove fearlessly, struck the ball cleanly, and took the pressure off Philippe before a leading edge ended his innings in the ninth over.
Philippe, on 25 then, steered the Sixers' chase as the Strikers kept Rashid's last three overs for later. He returned in the 12th over with the Sixers still needing 86 from 54 and Philippe used the crease well to sweep again and seemed to pick the wrong'uns from the hand by going deep in his crease to collect runs, using the tactic to bring up his 36-ball fifty in the 15th over. Rashid accounted for Daniel Hughes in that over but Philippe and James Vince didn't allow the legspinner any more success and the England batsman smoked him for a six in his last over as Rashid ended with 1 for 34. Philippe scored 23 of those runs while facing only 12 balls from Rashid.
Despite the Sixers being mostly in control of the chase, things got tense towards the end when they needed 32 from 18, and Siddle only conceded seven in his third over to bring the equation to 25 from 12. But Philippe rose to the occasion again and virtually ended the chase with the first three balls of the 19th over against Neser. Expecting yorkers, he stayed deep in the crease and drilled the first two full deliveries for fours before dispatching a short ball over midwicket for his fourth six. The Sixers only needed four off the last over, and Tom Curran sealed victory with a straight six off Siddle.
Hazlewood puts the brakes on in BBL return
Hazlewood last played in the BBL in 2014 and his last ODI appearance was in November 2018 but it didn't show at all. He stuck to his Test lines and lengths, didn't use any slower deliveries or yorkers, and stifled the Strikers with his accuracy. The Strikers had raced to 1 for 67 in seven overs, cashing in on the diet of short balls they were being served, before Hazlewood came back for his second spell. A scratchy-looking Alex Carey's problems were compounded when Hazlewood kept angling the ball away from him from off stump; the pressure mounted and Carey made room to heave but he missed a straight delivery and lost his leg stump, for 29 off 31.
Hazlewood's heat fired up the other quicks as they collectively brought down the run rate from 9.57 to 7.23 by the end of the 13th over, Hazlewood finishing with 1 for 18. At 5 for 120 after 15 overs, the Strikers were lifted by Jonathan Wells' timing and clever placement which earned him a useful unbeaten 40 off 28 along with the lower-middle order. The Strikers collected 56 from the last five as Neser and Rashid also chipped in with cameos.
Sixers' fielding helps Strikers but not much
If the Strikers didn't help themselves by not promoting Rashid up the order as they have recently done, they were at least aided by the Sixers' fielding errors. Ben Dwarshuis put down two consecutive chances, despite getting his hands to both, at deep backward square leg in the last over, Rashid the beneficiary both times. Earlier too, there were several misfields: once in the powerplay, then in the 14th and 15th overs, and Lloyd Pope and Daniel Hughes also put down catches in the circle. One misfield also led to Matthew Short's run-out for a diamond duck but the Sixers can't take credit for that.
Currently placed second on the table, the Sixers will have to up their fielding game to stay near the top.