Sydney Sixers 9 for 194 (Hughes 96, Hatcher 3-33) beat Melbourne Stars 5 for 193 (Maxwell 71*, Pooran 65, O'Keefe 2-13) by one wicket
When Daniel Hughes holed out to deep-midwicket one boundary short of a century, he was spitting expletives under his breath as he walked off the field in the final over not because he missed out on three figures, but because he thought he may have just cost his team an unlikely victory. Having done so much heavy-lifting over the previous hour just to drag his team back into contention chasing a lofty target of 194, all of Hughes' dirty work appeared to have been in vain when Glenn Maxwell induced a catch to Hilton Cartwright on the boundary.
But Steve O'Keefe ensured that Hughes' efforts were not reduced to a footnote on the night. A huge swing to a Maxwell full toss may have missed the bat, but it clipped enough of his thigh to deflect past Ben Dunk behind the stumps and race through third man for the Sydney Sixers' winning runs with a ball to spare. With his primary death bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile off the field, Maxwell took it upon himself to defend 19 off the final over but was unable to do so. It meant his fiery first innings' 125-run partnership with Nicholas Pooran was dimmed in defeat as the Melbourne Stars suffered their first loss of the 2020-21 BBL campaign.
The West Indies batsman left a memorable impression on the Gold Coast crowd with a 17-ball half-century. The Stars' innings had been sedate upon his arrival in the ninth over with the score at 4 for 49, and Pooran similarly got off to a modest start with just four runs off his first six deliveries. But a bouncer to the helmet by X-Factor swap-in fast bowler Gurinder Sandhu stirred Pooran to come to life. The following two balls from Sandhu to end the 12th over were bashed over the leg side rope for six.
Maxwell took the cue to call for the Power Surge for the start of the 13th. With pressure from the Stars captain and Pooran, the Sixers' bowling unit short-circuited through the rest of the innings. The duo plundered 49 from the pair of Power Surge overs, including four sixes in the sequence from Pooran as he cleared long-on twice more, before carving a pair of sumptuous drives over the extra cover boundary. In his maiden BBL innings, Pooran brought up a maiden BBL fifty off just 17 balls with another six over extra cover off Carlos Brathwaite in the 16th. Maxwell took nearly twice as many balls to do the same, highlighting the swiftness of Pooran's fury as the West Indian dominated their partnership before miscuing a drive off Sandhu to Jason Holder at long-off on the final ball of the 18th.
Hughes refuses to lose
The bulk of the heavy lifting by the Stars was done at the back end of their innings. Despite losing wickets early in the chase - including Jack Edwards and James Vince, and both to a short ball plan for ducks - the Sixers' captain kept his side above the Stars' early rate, claiming the midway bonus point with an over to spare.
Hughes was efficient early in his knock, flicking singles and twos to keep the required run rate in check, before seizing on Adam Zampa in the tenth over to begin his acceleration. He drove the legspinner for a pair of sixes in the over to chase him away from the attack. But brought back with 43 needed off 18, Hughes finished the 18th by sweeping Zampa twice for four and six, sandwiched around a lofted extra cover drive for another six, to bring the equation down to a very manageable 23 off 12.
Liam Hatcher produced a tidy 19th over, conceding just three runs while taking two wickets to put the Stars on the cusp of victory. Soon, Brathwaite driving to Maxwell at long-on and a yorker to bowl Ben Dwarshuis three balls later left Hughes with just a pair of tailenders to get his side over the line with 20 required off the final over.
After a first ball six conceded by Maxwell to Hughes over long-on, Nick Larkin was the center of attention for a pair of gaffes at deep-backward square leg. Hughes flicked the second ball in the air toward Larkin, who went for glory trying to dive forward for a catch but the ball failed to carry, instead winding up to take a carom off his body in the process of going into the rope for a boundary. On the next ball, Hughes tried to muscle a full toss over Larkin, who tried to parry the ball back to Cartwright running over to assist from deep midwicket. However, he wound up flubbing the relay as the ball drooped into ground for another six. A two-ball sequence that at worst could have been limited to two runs ended up producing ten, as the equation turned into four off three balls to win for the Sixers.
Maxwell darted a half-volley into the legs for Hughes to crack on the next ball, but despite plenty of power there wasn't enough elevation to clear Cartwright. Last man Sandhu joined O'Keefe in the middle with both yet to face a delivery. O'Keefe failed to capitalise on another Maxwell full toss by swinging over it with the bat, but a delivery that deserved to go for four runs ultimately did so off the pads.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna