Sixers' Jordan Silk taken out retired hurt with one ball remaining and two runs to win
Jay Lenton was brought on for the final delivery so he could do the running, with Hayden Kerr on strike
It will say retired hurt on the scorecard - and there was no doubting Jordan Silk's hamstring injury - but cricket came as close as it ever has to a tactical retirement of a batter during the pulsating finish of the BBL Challenger final at the SCG.
With one ball remaining and Sydney Sixers needing two to win, their coach Greg Shipperd, one of the most experienced figures in the game, signalled furiously for Silk to come off the ground so that Jay Lenton, a late addition after Josh Philippe tested positive for Covid-19, could do the running off the final delivery with Hayden Kerr on strike.
Silk, who damaged his hamstring in the field, had come out three balls previously with Sixers hoping the right hander could target a short leg-side boundary. He limped through for a single off his first delivery, watched Kerr launch a six over deep midwicket then hobbled back for a second from the penultimate ball almost using his bat as a crutch.
A batter is permitted to retire at any point - it doesn't even have to be retired hurt - but initially Adelaide Strikers' captain Peter Siddle appeared less-than-impressed as he approached the umpires although shortly after the finish had a more mellow view.
"You can retire blokes, at the end of the day you can retire, it's not actually a big issue," he told Fox Cricket. "As soon as I brought it up with the umpires, obviously I was disappointed at the time, but it's just a retirement…sometimes it happens at crucial times. It's just part of the game."
Sixers' captain Moises Henriques, who himself picked up a calf injury, explained the thinking behind Silk initially coming to the crease.
"We sent him in at No. 8 to try to get a couple boundaries in that last over," he told Fox Cricket. "As soon as he wasn't able to face a ball and we needed a person to run, we knew he couldn't run so we just thought we'd retire him and put out someone who can.
When asked if there was any spirit of cricket debate to be had, Henriques said: "I don't understand how so. They're clearly within the rules of the game. Unfortunately we had a guy go down with a hamstring, one of the fittest guys in the league, probably something to do with our schedule, five flights in eight days and so many back-to-back games."
For Lenton, the last ball provided the final act in a whirlwind 24 hours where the former Sydney Thunder player, whose previous BBL match had been the Challenger final in 2020, had gone being an assistant coach giving throwdowns to being told to run as fast as he could to secure a place in a final.
"I didn't even bring my kit to training yesterday," he said. "I was wanging balls then Mo said go get your kit and have a hit. About one o'clock today I got told I was playing."
"I said to [Hayden], it's the best nought not out I've ever had without facing a ball. Never been more excited for it, that's for sure. It was bizarre…I'm standing there then all of a sudden it's 'get him [Silk] off, get him off' I'm running. Pretty frantic, sums up the day to be fair."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo