After a short break to allow the Australian public to enjoy yet another Fresh Test thrashing of India, this week saw the final set of Big Bash fixtures with the eight teams whittled down to four semi-finalists. Or, thanks to the two Champions League places on offer, four finalists. It’s a bit strange to see the semi-finals being described as bigger games than the final, but that’s modern sport for you – look at the celebrations that achieving the role of third loser in the Premier League brings.
Regardless, it was crunch time this week – crispy fillet burgers all round! – starting with Brisbane Heat’s must-win encounter with Sydney Thunder. We’ve been critical of the Thunder before for some very poor attempts at run chases, but they set a new low here. The Heat racked up an impressive 195/4, led by 75 from Dan Christian and a quickfire 47* from Chris Lynn. In response, the Thunder were absolutely woeful. Their plan of relying on Chris Gayle to score all the runs quickly came undone, as he edged behind first ball. Bizarrely, this didn’t change their thinking, with a series of batsmen playing the anchor role but no-one actually trying to score the runs. 104/6 from 20 overs was a dismal effort, summing up a dismal season for the Thunder, who finished bottom of the table.
Next up, the Melbourne Renegades travelled to Hobart to take on the Hurricanes, in what was probably the best game of the competition. The Renegades racked up 173/4, which the Hurricanes chased down with a single ball to spare. We’ve often been quick to criticise Owais Shah, mainly because he’s deserved it for being mental, but he’s had a very good season in the Big Bash and saw his side home once again, via a very composed 49 from 30 balls. In a tight finish the Hurricanes needed one from the last ball, bowled by Shahid Afridi. In true comedy fashion, he bowled a massive wide and the game was gone. The victory was enough to lift the Hurricanes to second place and a home semi final.
Top spot was decided the following day, as the Perth Scorchers travelled to Sydney to take on the Sixers. The home side’s eventful innings started with two quick wickets before the middle order accelerated, led by 51 from Ashes hero Steve Smith, and then collapsed at the end. 176 all out was a decent score, but not a great one. Brad Hogg again defied his 93 years to be the pick of the bowlers.
And here’s where it got complicated. Being two points clear at the top of the table, the Scorchers didn’t actually need to win, they just needed to get close. Hence we had a series of targets along the way, with the actual winning total of 177 being the least significant. After a decent start Mitchell Starc turned the innings on its head with three wickets in an over, taking out both Shaun and Mitchell Marsh as well as Paul Collingwood. Starc’s looked good in patches during the early days of his Test career but here he looked every bit the new Mitchell Johnson, getting the ball to swing viciously in towards the stumps.
And we mean that in regards to when Mitchell Johnson actually used to be okay, rather than when he became a national embarrassment, bowling comical wides down the leg side and getting slagged off in the paper by his mum for spending too much time with his girlfriend. No-one could ever replace Mitch in that respect.
Anyway, we digress. With the game in the balance, the Scorchers could see their position at the top of the table slipping away. Luckily, Moises Henriques had other ideas, bowling one of the worst overs we’ve ever seen in any level of cricket, to get rid of all the complicated maths. He started with a head high full toss, called a no-ball and smashed for four. He followed it up with another head high full toss, called a no-ball and smashed for six. He then finally got one to bounce on the cut strip, but unfortunately for him the next bounce was out of the hands of an old guy fifteen rows back. 18 runs from one legal delivery probably wasn’t what he was aiming for. We don’t even know what happened in the rest of the over – we couldn’t see due to the tears of laughter streaming down our faces – but in the final reckoning the Scorchers fell a run short but sat proudly atop of the table, while the Sixers finished in third place.
The final game of the round saw the Adelaide Stinkers travel to Melbourne Stars in a shootout for fourth place. As shootouts go, it wasn’t a great one, certainly no gunfight at the O.K. Corral, with the Stinkers bowled out for just 125. The Stars chased it down comfortably enough and will travel to the WACA tonight for a Warne vs. Hogg shootout type thing.
We’ll be honest – there was grownup cricket on, so we didn’t really watch the last game.
The marketing bods at Cricket Australia aren’t the sharpest tools in the box – the farcical announcement of the Ashes squad being a particular lowlight – but they’ll be lickin’ their fingers at the response to the Big Bash’s secret mix of eleven herbs and spices. Tickets for tonight’s game at the WACA sold out in just 30 minutes, an amazing statistic given that that’s how long it takes the people at Ticketmaster to answer the phone. Luckily we managed to get some so we’ll be bringing a proper journalistic review to the table in a couple of days, instead of just making stuff up based on the scorecards. There’s another game in Hobart, but we won’t be going to that – it’s bloody miles away for a start – but we will probably watch it on the telly, to the great delight of the Fox Sports bean counters.