Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Sydney Thunder 3 for 97 (Hales 47, Richardson 1-13) beat Perth Scorchers 4 for 99 (Bancroft 35, Tremain 1-14) by seven wickets (DLS method)
Sydney Thunder gave themselves the best chance of qualifying for the Big Bash League finals and left the Perth Scorchers nervously awaiting other results with a rain-assisted victory at a humid Sydney Showgrounds. Needing a vast win to leapfrog Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat before sitting to wait on their fate, the Thunder corralled the Scorchers on a slow pitch, and then reeled in their DLS target with two balls to spare thanks to Alex Hales up top and then a late show by Chris Morris.
Perth had entered the game knowing that a win would guarantee them a finals place, but they must now wait to see how the Hurricanes and the Heat fare before being assured of their spot in the playoffs. The biggest contribution of the day was made by Hales with a shot-laden 47 from 27 balls, but it was arguably the rain that played the most pivotal role, ending the Scorchers' innings just when they looked to be rebuilding and also helping add a little more pace to the pitch for the Thunder.
Scorchers scotched by lack of pace
A parched Sydney Showgrounds pitch offered next to nothing in terms of what the Perth Scorchers love perhaps more than anything - pace on the ball. While the Thunder only chose one specialist spin bowler in wristspinner Jono Cook, all members of their bowling attack delivered a high proportion of slower balls, changeups and cutters to ensure the Scorchers were never able to find a batting rhythm.
This was best exemplified by Liam Livingstone, who has been brilliant for his hitting and boundary scoring power during this tournament. The combination of slow conditions and savvy bowling saw him battle his way to 20 from 27 balls without a single boundary, before eventually edging a Chris Tremain slower ball bouncer behind. It had been a swifter yorker that Morris fired through Josh Inglis, while Mitchell Marsh and Ashton Turner both miscued attempts to clear the boundary.
Bancroft, David rebound before showers
Heat and humidity in western Sydney had suggested the likelihood of rain, and as the clouds closed in, Cameron Bancroft and Tim David did their best to give the Scorchers something to bowl at. They were going well, having added 35 in 22 balls when the skies opened up, sending both sides scurrying from the field just at a moment when the visitors looked capable of setting something in the region of 150.
The rain was to be ruinous to the Scorchers on a couple of levels, not only resulting in a friendly DLS target of 96 in 12 overs for the Thunder, but also serving to dampen the outfield and add a little more zip tot he surface, the better for the Thunder to take on the new ball in their chase against a Scorchers attack that, with Morne Morkel included for the first time, would offer up plenty of pace to work with.
Hales storm follows rain
A rain-shortened chase on an improving pitch with a BBL finals spot on the line was just about the perfect combination for Hales to show off his free-hitting best, while also being manna from heaven for headline writers. After a respectful start against Jhye Richardson, he climbed enthusiastically into Morkel, crashing a cut and a drive to the boundary either side of a mighty pull for six behind square leg, and by the time Fawad Ahmed provoked a skier with flight and spin, the target was a mere 30 runs from 27 balls.
Usman Khawaja had been happy to rotate strike at the other end while Hales was on the charge, and with a finals place in sight he was somewhat unluckily stumped off Ashton Agar when Inglis stopped a bottom edge behind with his boot and then flicked off the bails before the batsman could get back. The Thunder's captain Callum Ferguson then marshalled the closing stages, even if Richardson's excellent penultimate over - costing just two - left 12 required from the last.
Morris marches home
It had not been a great tournament with the bat for Morris, and when Ferguson was forced to bunt a single from the second ball of Matt Kelly's final over, the South African allrounder was left facing an equation of nine runs from four deliveries. Kelly is an expert at yorkers, but Morris was successfully able to hang back and get a ball that was just short of the ideal length.
The result was a towering six over long on, leaving the Thunder needing only three more runs. Kelly then drifted wide for Morris to carve a boundary over cover and keep the Thunder alive in the tournament. The BBL table has bunched right up at the finish.