Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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Adelaide Strikers 6 for 184 (Cockbain 65, Short 39, T Sangha 2-15, Sandhu 2-40) beat Sydney Thunder 6 for 178 (J Sangha 61, Ross 56, Conway 2-33, Siddle 2-41) by six runs
Harry Conway bowled a superb final over as Adelaide Strikers' remarkable late season revival and march towards an unlikely BBL title continued after knocking out Sydney Thunder by six runs in a thriller at the MCG.
With Thunder needing 14 runs off the last over, Conway held his nerve and dismissed Alex Ross (56) and Ben Cutting with successive deliveries as Strikers claimed their sixth straight victory.
Strikers, who had been bottom two for much of the regular season, play two-time defending champion Sydney Sixers on Wednesday at the SCG with the winner to book a spot in Friday's final against Perth Scorchers at Marvel Stadium.
It was heartbreak for Thunder, who finished third in the regular season and looked on track to chase down Strikers' 6 for 184 only to fall short.
Conway and Siddle star under pressure
In-form Strikers had beaten Hobart Hurricanes in a sudden-death final on Friday but this proved much more difficult against Thunder's imposing batting order. For the first time since he departed late in the season, star spinner Rashid Khan was desperately missed with his replacement Fawad Ahmed wicketless.
It came down to the final over delivered by Conway, who was under pressure when Ross hit a boundary off the third ball. But Conway proved the hero to conjure a famous Strikers victory as their stunning resurgence continued.
Thunder fall short amid contentious Khawaja dismissal
For chunks of the season, especially when they peeled off a six-match winning streak, Thunder looked like genuine title contenders so they will be frustrated to fall at this hurdle.
Even though they lost Alex Hales in the third over, Thunder remained on course with their hopes largely resting on captain Usman Khawaja and Sangha, who hit three gorgeous boundaries in his first five deliveries.
But the match turned in the seventh over when Khawaja sliced to a forward diving Fawad at short third man with the fielder claiming the catch. Replays appeared to show the ball hitting some turf before going into Fawad's fingers but the third umpire believed there was not enough evidence to overturn the soft signal.
A stunned Khawaja trudged back and a shaken Thunder had to regroup quickly. They did exactly that with Sangha and Ross, who found form after two successive ducks, expertly working the ball around the MCG's vast expanses. But it wasn't enough.
Cockbain overshadows Test stars
It seemed like déjà vu for Strikers who were following their successful formula against Hurricanes after electing to bat. Alex Carey and Matthew Short appeared set to replicate their match-winning century partnership last start as they once again got off to a flier.
Carey was in a belligerent mood but his dismissal on 23 halted Strikers as Short departed then so too Travis Head, who has mustered just eight runs across two games since his return from his outstanding Ashes.
Strikers were in danger of falling away but No. 3 Ian Cockbain steadied the ship with a superb 38-ball 65 to again prove why the 34-year-old has been the find of this BBL season after recently being plucked out of suburban cricket in Melbourne.
He couldn't quite be there at the death but his innings proved vital and lifted Strikers to a total that was just enough.
Sams' blinder brightens ragged Thunder
Sams has enjoyed another stellar season but things were unravelling for him early at the MCG. He came on during the four-over powerplay only to be belted for 19 runs and worse was to follow when he dropped big-hitter Short on 15 after misjudging a skier.
But a seething Sams made up for all of that with a blinder to dismiss Carey, where he leapt backwards on the midwicket boundary to pull off one of the best catches of the tournament.
It sparked Thunder as frontline spinner Tanveer Sangha (4-0-15-2) tied down Strikers in the middle overs with skiddy bowling to change the momentum. But an otherwise ragged Thunder couldn't finish the job with their seamers struggling and sloppy fielding undoing Sangha's earlier brilliance.
It would eventually prove costly.
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