With us having long since given up on using the term ’round’ to mean anything other than a random number of fixtures, the final ’round’ of group stage games saw a number of sides scrapping for a place in the top four and the semi-finals. Plus it was the opportunity for the Sydney Thunder to complete the greatest season in the history of everything ever.
We’ve basically run out of ways to describe how bad the Thunder are. They’re bad. Really bad. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly bad they are. I mean, you may think No Way No Way by Vanilla is bad, but that’s just peanuts to the Thunder.
The final humiliation came at the hands of a Shane Warne-less Melbourne Stars, the plastic faced one having been banned for one game for his hilarious disagreement with Marlon Samuels. In his absence the Stars called up Dmitri Mascarenhas, which came as something of a surprise to us, who didn’t even know he was in the squad.
Batting first the Stars struggled to 145/8. Luke Wright ran himself out for just 6 to set the tone for the innings, with Brad Hodge top-scoring with 39. Pick of the bowlers was Dirk Nannes, who finished with 1/18 from his four overs. Indeed, the Thunder’s bowling wasn’t actually that bad this season; it was the batting that let them down time and time again, never more so than in their reply here.
For the first time all season Chris Gayle actually delivered, bashing his way to 65 from 43 balls. Unfortunately Usman Khawaja was the only other batsman to reach double figures, making 23. With those two together at the crease a successful chase looked on the cards. Then Gayle fell with the score on 91, Khawaja followed in the following over and the whole house of cards collapsed in no time, the Thunder being bowled out for 132, their thirteenth consecutive loss. We weren’t joking about how bad they are.
The win guaranteed the Stars a place in the semi-finals. Whether Warne will get to broadcast his mid-match thoughts again remains to be seen.
Going into this game the Sixers had only a small chance of squeezing into the top four, one that was quickly destroyed by a superb innings from Alex Hales. With Marlon Samuels still recovering from having his face rearranged by Lasith Malinga, Hales was a late addition to the Renegades’ squad and stepped straight off the plane, rushed to the SCG and promptly dispatched the Sixers attack to all parts. His 89 from 52 balls contained eight sixes, including the two longest in the competition, and had the Fox Sports commentary team literally creaming themselves with excitement.
Alongside Hales, Ben Rorher made 57 from 37 balls as the Renegades racked up 178/5, a total that the Sixers needed to chase inside 12 overs to stand a chance of finishing in the top four. Unsurprisingly they didn’t quite manage it, being bowled out for 149 from the final ball of the innings. To be fair, Steve Smith wasn’t available (due to being part of the Australian ODI squad) so they were pretty much doomed before they started.
The Renegades’ win guaranteed them top spot and a home semi final.
This game was billed as a winner takes all shootout, with a home semi final up for grabs for the victor. Instead of being a shootout, it was more like the Night of the Long Knives, with the Strikers (metaphorically) rounded up and brutally murdered with crushing efficiency.
Batting first the Scorchers battered their way to the highest score of the competion, 189/4. Herschelle Gibbs made 54, Adam Voges 36 and Shaun Marsh 79. Poor old Nathan Lyon, one of four spinners chosen by the Strikers, bowled just a single over, getting carted for 17 runs before retreating to admire the excellent quality of the outfield grass.
In reply, the Strikers were 5/2 after eight balls and the game was already over. Alfonso Thomas (3/14) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (3/13) did the majority of the damage, although it was Michael Beer (2/14 from his four overs) who set the tone, bowling dangerman Michael Klinger for a duck in the opening over.
The Strikers were eventually bowled out for 91, losing by 98 runs in the biggest T20 beating since Jon Lewis tore Australia a new one in 2005. The result ended the Strikers’ hopes while guaranteeing the Scorchers a home semi-final.
The final game of the group stage was beautifully set up, with two sides going head to head for the final place in the semis. And yet it produced a far from classic match in which the Hurricanes struggled with the bat, reaching 150/3 from their 20 overs before Luke Pommersbach savaged their bowlers on his way to the fastest 50 of the competition, from just 24 balls. As a result the Heat strolled to victory, winning by 8 wickets with about a day to spare.
Alongside Pommersbach (who was eventually out for 82 from 42 balls), Joe Burns (41*) was the only other Heat batsman required to do the damage. Highlight of the innings was undoubtedly Doug Bollinger’s bright red face, the poor fellow being absolutely exhausted. After just four balls of his spell.
Melbourne Renegades vs. Brisbane Heat (Tuesday)
Perth Scorchers vs. Melbourne Stars (Wednesday)