It is looking increasingly likely that the Sydney Sixers will be crowned BBL champions for the first time since the inaugural competition in 2011-12 without stepping on the field at the SCG on Saturday, but captain Moises Henriques refused to look too far ahead and insisted his team had prepared as normal to face the Melbourne Stars.
The forecast of heavy rain, which arrived on cue on Sydney on Friday as the Sixers players gathered at the ground for a pre-match meeting, is expected to last throughout the weekend with over 120mm predicted for the day of the final. The match is due to start at 7.15pm and there is about a four-hour window to get a contest in, which can be reduced to a five-over game to get a result.
"At the moment, we're just the hosts of the final, to already be calling a T20 game off, it only takes 50 minutes to make a game," Henriques said. "We've already seen today, even after 30mm [of rain] in two hours or something like that, the ground just dries off straight away. Considering you need only a five-over game to take place, so you only need a little break in that four-hour window to get a game in.
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"So we've prepared as per usual. We had our team meeting today after finding out who we're playing, completely expecting at least some sort of game of cricket to happen tomorrow."
Henriques was Player of the Match when the Sixers won their title nine years ago - hitting 70 off 41 balls after being told at the last minute he would open the batting - and they have been in two other finals. Their most recent was a thumping nine-wicket defeat to the Perth Scorchers in 2017, but in 2015 they were involved in a thriller, also against the Scorchers, in Canberra when Brett Lee, playing the final match of his career, claimed two wickets in two balls with the scores level before Henriques fumbled a run-out chance at the stumps off the last ball that would have earned a tie.
"Even the fact the scores were tied with three balls to go and even just to take it to the last ball shows a lot about the way we play our cricket," Henriques recalled. "This year, again, we've shown that a lot of those close games now we're starting to win. We've got guys that have experienced those close fixtures, they know what it feels like to both lose and succeed and what emotions play and how to remain calm and make good decisions in those moments."
Whatever happens on Saturday, Henriques is proud of what his team has achieved this season after being unfancied in some quarters before the tournament started - as low as seventh in a couple of betting markets. "We feel like we've had a really good season, we've played some really good cricket, we've had some really good growth with some of our players and all of our players will obviously be trying our best tomorrow going out into the game, but what happens tomorrow doesn't take away from what our players, our coaches and staff have achieved throughout the team."
The Sixers timed their run to second place perfectly at the end of the regular season with three straight victories but there were times when things weren't going as smoothly. Two early defeats - a collapse chasing a low score against the Hobart Hurricanes in Alice Springs and feeling the full force of Chris Lynn at the SCG, which has been their only loss at home - tested the squad, as did a mid-season period where they were taken for 147 by Marcus Stoinis and were on the wrong end of some rain.
"We've bounced back from every single setback or whenever a team's done well against us the next time we've played them we've seemed to have bounced back quite well," Henriques said. "I think that's a testament to our all players for how they hang in there and how they learn. I think for what other people might have said about our group before the season started that definitely wasn't the belief within the 18 players and the coaching staff in fact I couldn't have thought anymore the opposite. I would have had us right there at the top and to be honest I'm not surprised where we are right now."
The key match for ensuring the Sixers didn't slide down the table to need a tougher run to the final was the home match against the Stars, when they overcame the challenge of having their batting innings reduced by rain after they had started. If there is a window in the weather tomorrow, it's a useful memory for them to have.
"To know that we can win in a rain affected game even though we lost the toss is a really important thing going into tomorrow - stay unemotional about the bat-flip, you could lose some overs, start as a 20-over game then it changes and you have to adjust again," Henriques said. "The fact we did that last time, the guys we will take confidence out of that."