Sydney Thunder 2 for 117 (Khawaja 48*, Hales 45) beat Melbourne Renegades 6 for 166 (Marsh 87, McAndrew 3-41) by seven runs (DLS)
The Melbourne Renegades remained at the bottom of the BBL table as a strong performance from the Sydney Thunder top order took them to a rain-curtailed seven-run victory on the Gold Coast, their fifth in a row to put them at the top of the ladder, on an evening interrupted and ultimately ended by rain.
A power-packed start by Alex Hales put the Thunder well ahead of the rate in what looked a demanding chase of 173 after Shaun Marsh's 87 had anchored the Renegades' innings either side of the first rain interruption. He fell to one of the catches of the tournament - and certainly the catch of the year so far - from MacKenzie Harvey, but the innings was then kept on course by the cool head of Usman Khawaja.
Both sides were hampered by a wet ball at stages, but the Renegades needed the game to go the distance having fallen behind on the DLS due to Hales' onslaught. Despite narrowing the gap somewhat, they were unable to take the wicket that could have made the difference. Captain Aaron Finch gambled by holding his senior seamer Kane Richardson back, as the rain fell with a view to using him in the Power Surge over and the death.
Khawaja guiding hand
Khawaja was impressive both on the field and during the rain break. Having been content to watch Hales do his stuff at the other end - he made 5 off 7 balls in their 52-run opening stand that came in four overs - he was then taking charge of the latter part of the chase when the asking rate had nudged back above ten an over following some good work by the spinners. He took consecutive boundaries off Imad Wasim in the tenth over to give the Thunder even more breathing space on the DLS and dispatched Will Sutherland over mid-on moments before the rain got too heavy.
Meanwhile, during the first break for rain, Khawaja had given an illuminating interview to the host broadcaster about dealing with the pressures of professional cricket and lessons he has learnt during his lengthy career. There is a long future for him around the game when he does finally put the bat away,
Perry's debut over, Harvey's worldie
It was a daunting prospect for 20-year-old Mitchell Perry to start his BBL career bowling to an already-set Hales. Sending down a length perfectly in Hales' arc, he was treated with disdain for five deliveries including two sixes over long-on. Aiming for a wide yorker with the last delivery, he sent down a big full toss outside off stump which again flew off Hales' bat, but a split second later it was intercepted by a flying Harvey - nephew of former Australia allrounder Ian Harvey - another of the Renegades' youngsters who is lauded as one of the best fielders in the game.
There was a look of giddy astonishment on everyone's face, not least Perry. On the first day of 2021, it certainly set a high bar in the catch-of-the-year race. However, there were suggestions the delivery should have been checked for a front-foot no-ball.
Marsh's efforts in vain again
For the second game running, a well-constructed innings from Marsh ended on the losing side. His 87 off 48 balls included five sixes - his half-century coming from 29 deliveries - and he was able to find his stride again after the rain break as the Renegades added 67 off the final five overs of the innings. Finch said the team's plan was to come out very aggressively and he set that tone himself, but at 3 for 58 in the seventh over, it could have gone wrong.
Marsh and Mohammad Nabi added 90 in nine overs to propel the innings forward, Nabi overcoming a sluggish start where he was 4 off 14 balls to finish on 33 off 24, but the Renegades' season is still threatening to go the same way as the last one.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo