Reigning Champions League and Big Bash League title holders, the Sydney Sixers can rightfully call themselves the world's most accomplished Twenty20 team. Their polish could not be questioned on this night, as the Sixers vanquished their motley local rivals Sydney Thunder by seven wickets at the SCG.
More open to question was the Sixers' crowd-pulling power, for the match was watched by a Sydney audience of 15,279 after most in the team's marketing and membership camps had confidently expected a sell-out, or close to it. This was after all their tournament opener, a local derby, and a balmy Saturday evening with no major competing sport in the city.
In truth, the attendance was an improvement on the 12,285 who turned out for the BBL's inaugural match on this ground a year ago. But the amount of money outlaid on the second edition of the competition - a $10 million loss has reportedly been budgeted for by Cricket Australia - has been spent in the confident hope of greater gatherings than this.
The Sixers' successful chase was guided by the captain Brad Haddin and his deputy Steve Smith. Haddin's 59 began with a six first ball before settling down, while Smith played with the purposeful busyness he has shown for most of the season so far with New South Wales. Nic Maddinson also contributed with a spiky 39 at the top of the order.
Ryan Carters was the only Thunder batsman to pass 30, as most of the innings was constricted by Luke Feldman and Mitchell Starc, who claimed 4 for 46 between them. The Thunder will again be heavily reliant on the bludgeoning of Chris Gayle, who will join them in time for game two.
David Warner had been the Sixers' big ticket signing in the off-season after he did not enjoy his first season with the Thunder. But after a poor Perth Test match against South Africa Warner was also out of sorts as the chase began, his diagonal-batted swish at Chris Tremain unwisely reminiscent of the shot he played on the second morning at the WACA ground. Then as now, the result was an edge through to the wicketkeeper.
Haddin has been in altogether finer fettle, and he blithely upper cut his first ball for six over point. Together with Maddinson, Haddin set about allaying any uncertainty among the Sixers' batsmen via a series of punchy strokes. Maddinson's highest score for New South Wales since returning from the Champions League had been a mere 36, but now he prospered, driving attractively and offering both a neat reverse sweep and a brazen straight hit as Luke Doran's first over went for 18.
Though Tremain returned to strike middle stump as Maddinson walked so far across his crease that he could barely reach the ball, Haddin and Smith kept composed to roll towards the target as the overs ticked by, piercing the field often enough while absorbing Dirk Nannes' exemplary spell of 4-0-17-0. Haddin was bowled when trying to crash a six with the scores tied, but next ball Moises Henriques blazed down the ground to finish the chase.
As he did in the Sixers' very first BBL match on this ground against the Brisbane Heat a year ago, Haddin won the toss and sent the visitors in. Brett Lee and Starc shared the new ball, the latter not gaining much of his pet inswing to the right-hand batsmen but bending it the other way instead. Usman Khawaja, having been parachuted in on the day after playing two days for the CA Chairman's XI against the Sri Lankans, was the victim of this movement, ruled lbw for 19 to a swerving yorker that may have missed leg stump.
Chris Rogers and Martin Guptill both made starts, but at 61 in the ninth over Rogers tried to nibble Feldman down to third man and succeeded only in edging through to Haddin. Guptill perished to a premeditated mow over the legside, the ball plucking leg stump and causing the newly introduced "disco" bails and stumps to flash in a fashion more familiar to King's Cross than the SCG.
Playing his first BBL match after missing out on a contract last summer, Feldman returned a tidy 2 for 19. His efforts had swung the innings firmly towards the Sixers. Starc returned with another yorker that Cameron Borgas' outlandish footwork rendered nigh on unplayable, and when Rhett Lockyear swung at Henriques and was also bowled, the Thunder had slipped to 5 for 88.
At this point the ground PA system blared Gangnam Style, drawing a more lively response from the crowd than much of the innings, which concluded with a Thunder rearguard. Sean Abbott hoisted Lee into the Ladies Stand, and Carters hustled well between the wickets before slicing Jeevan Mendis' final ball of the innings for six. Despite their efforts the final tally looked inadequate, and so it would prove.