Two very special innings from veterans Mike Hussey and Jacques Kallis saw Sydney Thunder register a 56-run victory over Brisbane Heat in their first match of the Big Bash League season. The win is only the Thunder's second in 22 matches following their 19-match losing streak that ended last season.
Kallis and Hussey played innings of classical style and modern mentality. Hussey, who scored 96, and Kallis, with an unbeaten 97, put on a record breaking 160 for the first wicket - only six short of the Thunder's highest team score before today and comfortably the highest partnership for any wicket for the Thunder and the second-highest partnership by any team in the BBL. No bowler escaped the onslaught, Andrew Flintoff on his BBL debut, was struck for 25 from just two overs.
Flintoff later recorded a third-ball duck as the Heat lost 6 for 19, their chase crumbling badly to be bowled out in the 18th over.
39 year olds Kallis and Hussey, both retired from international cricket and irregular T20 freelancers, fused the old world with the new to propel the Thunder well past their previous highest score of 166 for 6 to 208 for 1. Kallis' 97 became his new highest T20 score; surpassing the 89 not out he made for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2010.
With very short straight boundaries the Heat, who won the toss and elected to bowl, looked to hit back of a length, forcing the Thunder to score to the larger square boundaries. But Kallis and Hussey countered, using their feet and opening up the off side, thrashing the ball behind square. When the Heat then went shorter still, Kallis and Hussey stayed back and hooked, pulled and swatted the ball away.
Although the pair played with similarly classical techniques and finished with very similar scores: Hussey 96 from 60 balls; Kallis 97 from 55, their innings differed in strategy. Hussey, after facing twelve balls, eight of them dots, elevated his scoring rate and maintained it throughout his innings, six fours and seven sixes puncturing proactive rotation of the strike. He faced just twelve dot balls in his last 48 deliveries.
Kallis meanwhile reaffirmed the lasting value of acceleration in an age of consistent scoring intensity. He scored just 33 runs from his first 28 balls, including ten dot balls and he hit just one boundary in his first 22. But off his last 27, he doubled his scoring rate to score 66 runs facing just two dot balls, and at one point he scored off 22 consecutive deliveries. It truly was an innings of two halves; a strike-rate of 117 preceded a strike-rate of 237. His approach was so effective that its lessons should be borne around the T20 world.
Hussey led the partnership, at one point he was 42 runs ahead of Kallis, but the pair complimented each other. They exited the Powerplay at just 54 for 0 and passed 100 in the twelfth over, and truly accelerated thereafter scoring eight consecutive double-digit overs all the way up until the close of the innings.
Admirably, Hussey didn't slow as he neared what would have been his second T20 century, but fell just short of the milestone when he was caught well by wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson after top edging a pull shot high into the night's sky off the bowling of Cameron Gannon.
Eoin Morgan joined Kallis for the final few balls of the innings and had enough time to play a single jaw-dropping shot. Backing away to a delivery from Ryan Duffield that was angled in towards Morgan's legs, he moved away to the leg side and back deep in the crease; just as the ball narrowly missed leg stump, Morgan jammed his bat down on the ball deflecting it behind the stumps, wrong-footing the keeper who was headed well down the leg side, through where first slip would've been and fine of third man.
The Heat's faced a tough chase and it got a lot harder by the third ball of the innings when debutant Simon Milenko fell for a duck. Kallis then bowled Dan Christian for 8 in the third over. The middle order trio of Joe Burns, who made 28, Chris Lynn, 40, and Nathan Reardon, 49, brought the match back into the balance and Thunder captain Hussey admitted to being worried when they were at the crease but the required run rate never dropped below 12 after the ninth over. Lynn was dismissed by new signing Andrew MacDonald in the twelfth over and after Reardon fell in the fifteenth the Heat fell away miserably with only Peirson joining Burns, Lynn and Reardon in double figures.
The Thunder's attack was varied and potent, Gurinder Sandhu with 3 for 19, and MacDonald, 3 for 20, the pick of the Thunder bowlers.