Hobart Hurricanes 163 for 6 (Bailey 56*, Wells 27, McKay 4-28) beat Sydney Thunder 152 for 9 (Hussey 71, Tait 3-16, Reed 3-35) by 11 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sydney Thunder, after a perfect three-from-three start to the Big Bash League season, had once more done plenty right. In front of a record Bellerive Oval crowd of 17,151 (1808 more than watched the entire Australia v West Indies Test match at the same venue last month), Hobart Hurricanes' powerful batting line-up had been limited to 163, and Michael Hussey - who came to the crease after two first-over wickets - was rolling back the years to anchor the chase. But the 18th over, bowled by Jake Reed, turned things around as Hobart Hurricanes held their nerve to win by 11 run.
The onus was on Hussey - who had lost Andre Russell the over before, to steer Thunder home from a position where they required 27 off 18 balls. But that wasn't to be as Hussey slogged the opening ball across the line, and was brilliantly caught low by a sprinting Clive Rose at deep square leg. Next, Chris Hartley - coming back for a second - was run out by an outstanding direct hit from Dan Christian at long-on. Finally, Chris Green's thick outside edge was snaffled by Tim Paine, diving full stretch to his right. Three deliveries, three outstanding pieces of fielding, three wickets, one game turned - and won.
The Hurricanes, fresh from a pair of victories over Brisbane Heat, had failed to get going against Thunder's stop-start, varied attack, as Hussey used seven different bowlers in the first eight overs. Ben Dunk edged and middled cuts for four off Green's opening over, but skied a catch, attempting to heave Clint McKay's first ball to leg.
Five overs later, Kumar Sangakkara was caught down the legside to the first ball of McKay's second over, and before the over was out, Paine was gone too, edging one that grew on him. Soon after, another moment of fielding inspiration, the best of the lot, saw Russell shove Hurricanes right on the ropes, diving to his left to take an extraordinary two-handed catch to dismiss danger man Dan Christian when the ball looked to have passed him.
It was - as it so often is - George Bailey who wrestled Hobart back into the game. Bailey was away with a cut off McKay and two overs later sent Russell to the point and midwicket fence. Then Fawad Ahmed was lofted brilliantly down the ground for six. He shared 58 with Jonathan Wells, then a quickfire 33 with Darren Sammy - who hit one enormous leg side six off McKay's last over before falling three balls later, in dragging Hurricanes to respectability. Bailey reached 50 - his second of the competition (this was his second not out, too) with a huge hoicked six off Andre Russell in the innings' penultimate over 163 for 6.
When Shaun Tait had Jacques Kallis caught at backward point and Shane Watson edging behind in the first over, Hurricanes' total looked far better than just respectable. But first with Aiden Blizzard, then Ben Rohrer, Hussey quietly chipped away at the total. All the old classics were there - that swivelling pull, the on-the-move cover drive and the slog sweep to the spinners - in a masterful display. Perhaps his only false shot, an edge off Tait, past Paine for four, took him to 50.
But the introduction of the brilliant Cameron Boyce - who looks set to make Australia's World T20 squad in India - saw the Hurricanes put the squeeze on. In three consecutive games, the legspinner has bowled match-spinning spells in Hurricanes victories. His first two overs cost just nine, with a solitary Hussey slog-sweep finding the fence, and the third snared Rohrer, caught at long-on by Christian trying to accelerate the scoring.
First ball of the next over, the 16th of the innings and Boyce's last, was sent sailing into the top deck of the Ricky Ponting stand by Russell. Boyce responded with a looping, drifting, spinning delivery that beat the bat, then Russell hoicked the next to Wells who took a fine catch running in from deep cover. The rot had set in, and Reed's triple wicket over - including that crucial dismissal of Hussey, saw the game's turn go full circle. Tait bowled the 18th and castled Sandhu as Thunder's tail were left with too much to do.
Not so long ago, Thunder were a basket case and an embarrassment: 19 consecutive defeats and three straight seasons propping the Big Bash League up. Now, though, they have a new home, and are a fine side, who should make the finals. Don't be surprised to see the men from Hobart - a resourceful and resilient mob - in the last four with them.