Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Sydney Thunder 5 for 232 (Hales 110, Dwarshuis 3-38) beat Sydney Sixers 5 for 186 (Henriques 56, Sangha 2-34) by 46 runs
You wait for a BBL century and then two come along at once. Well, almost. After Alex Carey's outstanding innings last night, Alex Hales produced a barnstorming display against the tournament leaders with a 51-ball century, his fourth in T20s, to power Sydney Thunder to the highest total in the competition's history.
Against a Sixers attack that could not stem the tide at any point, the Thunder formed three consecutive 50-plus partnerships on their way past 200 for the third time this season. At the 10-over mark it looked like something huge was on the cards at 2 for 109 which proved the case - 13 of the 20 overs went for double figures. Hales' innings took him back to the top of the run-scorers chart the day after England selector Ed Smith indicated there was no quick route back into the team.
The Sixers did not fold as some sides have done in big chases this season, but the pursuit of 233 needed a perfect performance and, after losing 3 for 22, there was a period of consolidation that pushed the asking rate even more stratospheric. However, Moises Henriques marked his first match of the season with a half-century that became ever-more fluent until he became the victim of another very poor umpiring decision.
Hales at his best
Hales had threatened an innings like this during a tournament where he has struck the ball superbly. He actually played out four dots in the first over from Jackson Bird, but wasted no time getting into his stride against Steve O'Keefe as the second over went 18 and then he deposited Bird into the stands as well. His half-century came from 26 deliveries with a slog-swept six off Lloyd Pope in the eighth over which gave him plenty of time to double up. Either side of the 10-over he lost a bit of the strike but did not lose any momentum. The Thunder delayed their Power Surge until the 18th over and Hales then sent four consecutive deliveries from Dan Christian for four, six, four, four to bring up his century. Whether Hales ever gets his England place back has clearly nothing to do with the runs he scores but he remains one of the best T20 batsmen around.
While Hales will rightly take the headlines, it was a perfectly constructed innings through from the Thunder. Usman Khawaja picked out third man in the fourth over, but Callum Ferguson crunched 42 off 23 balls to dominate a second-wicket stand of 69 in six overs which took the game away from the Sixers. After he was expertly caught by a nonchalant parried-back catch from Jordan Silk on the rope Sam Billings played his part in a partnership of 53.
Alongside Hales storming to his hundred, the innings was capped off by Ben Cutting's 33 off 14 deliveries. None of the Thunder batsmen had a strike rate below 150 as the total went past the previous BBL highest with a straight six from Cutting in the final over. The Thunder's top three totals ever have come in this campaign and the 15 sixes struck equaled the most in a BBL innings.
Records are there to be broken, but there never looked like being another one on the night. Josh Philippe and James Vince briefly threatened with a stand of 40 in the powerplay but it was broken by a brilliant piece of fielding by Ferguson, who stopped a firmly struck shot from Philippe at cover and then recovered to throw the ball at the non-striker's end. Vince struck seven fours in his 23-ball 38 before falling to legspinner Tanveer Sangha and, shortly after his dismissal, there was a 21-ball period where Silk and Henriques, the latter playing his first innings since December 8, did not hit a boundary.
Henriques went to a 30-ball fifty during the first over of the Power Surge against Adam Milne, but even 29 off those two overs did not bring down the asking rate. Sangha then returned for his final over and, off his penultimate ball, had Henriques caught behind attempting a sweep only for replays to confirm it had missed the bat comfortably and clipped the pad. However, having him in form for the finals will be a boost for the Sixers.
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