Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
Sydney Sixers 7 for 132 (Silk 30, Richardson 3-22) beat Melbourne Renegades 9 for 99 (Harvey 30, Curran 3-18) by 33 runs
Sydney Sixers have not solved their top-order batting woes, but they might not need to if they can defend totals as well as they did to beat the Melbourne Renegades on a poor surface at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
Defending 7 for 132, the Renegades looked in control after the Powerplay on the back an enterprising innings from debutant Mackenzie Harvey. But the Sixers spin duo of Steve O'Keefe and first-gamer debutant Ben Manenti weaved a web around the Renegades middle order and they failed to reach 100, losing their first game of the season. Manenti was Player of the Match for his 2 for 13 while Tom Curran finished with 3 for 18 in a brilliant all-round display.
Earlier, the Sixers overcame their worst batting Powerplay of the tournament to muster a winning score. Jordan Silk played another important innings. His 30 off 33 balls was boundary-less but priceless for the visitors. Josh Philippe and Curran played important cameos against a Renegades attack that bowled well on difficult batting surface.
Kane Richardson, Jack Wildermuth and Usman Shinwari took six wickets and bowled 34 dots in 12 overs between them.
Not so Marvel-lous pitch
The Docklands (Marvel Stadium) pitch has always been the most inconsistent in the BBL. Very often teams will bat second to get a look at the surface first up. Teams batting first average 155 at the venue compared to 161 across the BBL and teams have won 17 times chasing out of 30 matches. But this season it has been a lot worse. In two games, the first innings scores have been 103 and 7 for 132 and teams have no idea what a winning score is. Traditionally spin has been a big weapon at Docklands but pace has been the most effective this year. In this match, the players made particular mention of how much moisture was under this surface, and how the ball skidded from back of a length but held up when pitched fuller. It made batting incredibly difficult for both sides.
Sixers Powerplay struggles
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Sydney Sixers kept an unchanged top order for the fourth straight game and produced their worst batting Powerplay of the tournament of 3 for 25, to beat the 3 for 39 against the Scorchers, 3 for 33 against the Thunder, and 2 for 42 against the Stars, which later became 6 for 70. Jack Edwards played all around a straight ball from Shinwari then Daniel Hughes and Joe Denly both holed out. The surface was difficult but they have struggled to find a way to manufacture scores throughout the four games. Philippe was only top six player to strike at more than 100. He scored 20 off 13 to help the Sixers accelerate in the second half of the innings. He made three fifties in six games opening the batting in the JLT Cup (50-over competition) for Western Australia, striking at 120, yet he has been sitting at No.6 for four games in this BBL.
Smooth as silk
Silk was left to salvage something from the innings for the third time in four games. He has had to play patiently and rotate the strike in all three of those rescue missions. He didn't strike a single boundary in his 30 off 33 but it was an incredibly valuable innings on a difficult surface. He got great support from Philippe and Curran, who cracked two boundaries in his 23 not out from 15 balls to ensure the Renegades needed to chase more than a run-a-ball.
The Renegades pacemen dominated in their bowling innings and the Sixers loaded up with pace in their bowling Powerplay, instead of using O'Keefe. They looked to have erred. Debutant Harvey struck the ball powerfully with four fours and a six as the Renegades made 2 for 38 in the Powerplay to stay ahead of the required run-rate. But O'Keefe and debutant offspinner Manenti bowled seven of the next eight overs and squeezed the life out of the Renegades chase. They lost 4 for 33 in 48 balls with only one boundary. Manenti took 2 for 13 from his four overs, including the key wicket of Harvey cleaned bowled for 30, while O'Keefe finished with 2 for 19. The Renegades needed 62 from the last six overs and fell well short. The Sixers' catching was exceptional to back up the miserly bowling.
Sixers vs Renegades
Big Bash League