Adelaide Strikers 4 for 146 (Ludeman 57*, Milenko 3-25) beat Hobart Hurricanes 143 (Paine 45, Neser 3-26) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It seemed an almost unfair task. Adelaide Strikers batsman Jake Lehmann had not faced a delivery in the entire BBL but needed to hit a four off his first ball to win the match for his stuttering team against a desperate Hobart Hurricanes. Astonishingly, Lehmann, the son of Australia coach Darren Lehmann, calmly lofted the ball over mid-off and over the rope to rescue the Strikers much to the delight of a frenzied Adelaide Oval near-capacity crowd.
As knockouts tantalisingly loom, the Strikers are in prime position to finish atop the BBL ladder for the second straight season. The six-wicket victory propelled them to the top and they are almost a lock to host a semi-final. Conversely, the slumping Hurricanes are struggling to stay afloat in the finals race.
Chasing an apparently mediocre 144, the Strikers, sans an injured Mahela Jayawardene, appeared to be coasting but were stymied by a disciplined Hurricanes attack in the middle overs. Knowing the importance of the result, the Strikers batted cautiously in a bid to chase down the target without too many undue risks. Out of nowhere, the game tightened with the Strikers needing 34 runs off the last three overs. But with just two wickets down, they had Tim Ludeman well set on 50 and the ever reliable Brad Hodge showcasing his coolness.
Hodge and Ludeman calmly made their match-winning move in the 18th over, bludgeoning 18 runs off Cameron Boyce to essentially put the result beyond doubt. Or so we all thought. Hodge was bowled by a piercing Shaun Tait yorker in the penultimate over to ensure there would be a grandstand finish. Needing 10 runs off the final over, Strikers batsman Alex Ross scored a couple of twos to bridge the gap. But the game once again flipped when Ross was brilliantly caught by a diving Jon Wells at the wide long-on boundary, bringing the equation to five off two.
Highly impressive paceman Simon Milenko, who was a late replacement for Darren Sammy, bowled accurately off the penultimate delivery and ensured Ludeman could only score a single. Milenko appeared to be his team's surprise match-winner, until Lehmann stole the show with an astonishing last-ball six, much to the relief of the Strikers who appeared set for an unfathomable choke.
The gripping ending looked highly unlikely earlier in the day when the Hurricanes were bowled out for 143, losing six wickets for 23 runs in a horrific late collapse. They scored at a brisk rate for much of the innings but lost wickets at regular intervals to stymie their momentum before crumbling to the wizardry of Adil Rashid. The legspinner was trumpeted pre-match as the "player of the Big Bash" by Damien Fleming on the television commentary, and Rashid lived up to the billing with a mesmerising performance.
Rashid finished with highly impressive figures of 2 for 16 from four overs to become the tournament's leading wicket-taker. Tapping into his bag of tricks, Rashid duped Jonathan Wells with a trademark googly and then trapped danger man Daniel Christian in front. Rashid backed up a vibrant Strikers attack fuelled by debutant Greg West's exuberance. The left-armer bowled with hostility marked by an array of short deliveries and finished with 2 for 24 from four overs. West was not overawed by the occasion, notably exchanging in a verbal stoush with Hurricanes batsman Michael Hill.
But West backed up the bravado by claiming his first wicket with the scalp of the out-of-form Ben Dunk for just 8. Part of Australia's T20 team last summer, Dunk may have played himself out of contention for a World T20 berth. West capped off a memorable debut by dismissing his nemesis Hill, who loomed as a potential match-winner having struck a brutal 21-ball 32.
It was a disappointing effort for the revamped Hurricanes, who reshuffled their top order in a desperate bid to turn around their sagging form. The Hurricanes separated explosive openers Dunk and Tim Paine, due to an underwhelming opening partnership this tournament.
Regular No. 3 Kumar Sangakkara swapped positions with Dunk but it was merely one struggling player replacing another. Sangakkara averaged a paltry 14 coming into the match, and the promotion failed to turn around his fortunes. He lasted just five deliveries, deceived by Michael Neser's slower ball and spooning a catch to short cover. Just when a partnership between Paine and Hill looked ominous, Paine was run-out attempting an ambitious second run.
It started a collapse of eight for 51, one that ultimately doomed the Hurricanes despite their admirable resolve.