Sydney Thunder 8 for 170 (Khawaja 77, Hales 44, Boyce 5-21) beat Melbourne Renegades 7 for 169 (Finch 82, Sandhu 3-33, Sangha 2-32) by one run
became the first BBL player to claim four wickets in four balls to overshadow Usman Khawaja
's stellar return but Sydney Thunder prevailed over beleaguered Melbourne Renegades by one run to strike winning form ahead of the finals.
Boyce's spectacular 5 for 21 at the MCG were the best figures in Renegades' history to derail Thunder who relied on Khawaja's 77 off 51 balls. But he couldn't be the hero of Renegades' chase with Boyce dismissed on the final delivery needing two runs for victory.
Thunder couldn't conjure the big victory needed to overtake second-placed Sydney Sixers and will play in the Knockout on Sunday against the winner of the Eliminator between Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes.
Renegades' season ended with five straight losses as they collected the wooden spoon for the third straight year.
Red-hot Boyce creates history
Renegades' disappointing season seemingly couldn't end quickly enough with their wayward seamers torn apart by Khawaja and Alex Hales
. Then out of nowhere, Boyce claimed Hales who holed out on the last ball of the seventh over.
In his next over, Boyce had Jason Sangha stumped with a gem of a leg break then became the first Renegades player to claim a hat-trick when he dismissed Alex Ross with a dubious lbw decision. He wasn't done yet with Boyce then creating history with a fourth straight wicket by trapping Daniel Sams in front.
The mayhem continued with Matthew Gilkes almost run out first ball before he fell to a red-hot Boyce, who had the astounding figures of 5 for 7. Everything he touched turned to gold capped by running out Ben Cutting at the non-striker's end after getting a fingertip on the ball as it hit the stumps.
It's been another season of woe for Renegades but the comeback of Boyce, who played seven T20Is for Australia from 2014-16 but has been injury prone in recent years, has provided some cheer.
Khawaja stars, Thunder collapse
Khawaja seamlessly transitioned from the Test to T20 arena in his first BBL match of the season. The Ashes hero was in sublime touch, especially early against Renegades' errant seamers as he punished anything short. He also enjoyed overpitched deliveries marked by a brutal six down the ground off seamer Josh Lalor.
He reunited with opening partner Hales, who dominated the four-over powerplay yielding 54 runs for Thunder. After a slow start to the season, Hales has rediscovered his belligerent best as he powered 44 off 22 balls.
Perhaps they were throwing caution to the wind in a bid to overhaul Sixers' net run rate, but Thunder were particularly sloppy against Boyce. Khawaja, however, wasn't perturbed and should be well pleased with his preparation ahead of an expected assault during the finals.
Thunder find a way
After Boyce's earlier heroics, where he tossed the ball up and found grip, legspinner Tanveer Sangha had an opportunity to impress in the favourable conditions and he did exactly that with the key wicket of Shaun Marsh.
With Thunder struggling to contain Aaron Finch
, the pressure fell on Sangha who delivered with the wicket of Unmukt Chand in the 16th over and then Sams delivered a superb penultimate over to keep Thunder afloat.
Thunder's fielding had been sloppy throughout but they found inspiration in the final over with spectacular work from Jason Sangha leading to the run out of Sam Harper and then Sams took a blinder to dismiss Finch.
After being hit for six by Will Sutherland mid over, Gurinder Sandhu held his nerve on the final delivery to ensure Thunder ended a two-match winning streak in a confidence boost.
Renegades fall short again
Renegades, once again, blew the chase. For the second time in less than 24 hours, they appeared in command before botching it right at the very end. The good news - for Australian cricket too - is that Finch has rediscovered his best form after an indifferent campaign as he held the innings together with 77 off 51 balls.
But the bad news is that he couldn't get them over the line in both games and Renegades simply buckled under the pressure yet again. It appeared written in the stars that Boyce's magical performance was going to end with him hitting the winning runs but it wasn't to be as Renegades' tough season ended on a bitter note.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth