It’s hard to describe what exactly is so appealing about the Big Bash. On the surface it’s yet another derivative T20 tournament, populated by manufactured franchises that desperately seek a level of community acceptance that is not theirs to claim. When PR heads talk of the Sydney Thunder fan base as the ‘Thunder Nation’, does anyone actually believe them? Of course not, it’s just advertising bullshit. There are no core supporter bases, no invested communities, just a handful of curious onlookers at each game. But then, nobody goes to Big Bash games for the fan generated atmosphere. They go to see stupid stuff happen at regular intervals, with the odd bits of genius thrown in at random. And in that regard it more than delivers. Hence its success. Forget the hype, it’s awful. The product though? Now that ain’t half bad.
To be brutally honest, the author missed watching this Boxing Day game in order to catch The Hobbit on its Australian release. And what a complete pile of self indulgent shite that was. We’re not usually a vindictive bunch here at 51allout, but whoever thought a love interest between a Dwarf and a Elf was a good idea should be shot.
As for the game itself, it appears that the Melbourne Renegades are going to be shit again this season. Oh well, easy come easy go.
To make up for skipping the first game of the round, we went along to see this one live. Partly to see the God-like Alex Hales in action (who scored 16 and was out in the third over), but mostly to mock another Thunder defeat. It almost all went completely wrong too. Chasing 153 the Thunder capitulated to an entirely predictable 20/3 after four overs. But then Michael Hussey played almost the perfect T20 innings, dragging the Thunder back up towards the asking rate, and, near the close, past it. With one over remaining and 10 needed to win, the Thunder were in the box seat. But then Hussey holed out at deep mid-on, and the Thunder fell seven runs short of achieving their first victory in 15 attempts. It’s fair to say the fans were in something of a state of shock by the end, having their long, long, long awaited victory robbed from them at the last moment. Indeed the only noise in the stadium was our correspondent absolutely pissing himself in laughter. Good times man. Good times.
This was the sort of game that shows just how preposterously entertaining T20 cricket can be, with Hobart running down Brisbane’s total of 209 with four balls to spare. The final over was a mirror image of that from the Thunder game the night before; 10 runs to get and with the set batsman worryingly at the non-striker’s end. Faced with such a scenario the Thunder predictably crumbled. For Hobart Ben Hilfenhaus, who has never scored a run in Big Bash cricket, was the man on strike. He hit his first ball for four, his second for six. A career strike rate of 500 and the game in the bag. Simples.
The game previously had been lit up by Ben Dunk hitting the fastest T20 half century on record (21 deliveries), Doug Bollinger bowling really, really quick (and really, really wayward), and Craig Kieswetter going nuts at the top of the Brisbane innings, hitting 50 off 24 deliveries. So far the English imports have really impressed this season, and have added a great deal to the competition. That they are mostly all genuine internationals, and not the usual mercenaries who clog up such tournaments, is both a huge positive for English T20 cricketers who are denied access to the IPL, and the Big Bash as a whole. Plus it makes us feel all fuzzy inside seeing the two nations come together like this.
The three games preceding this had been, if not matches of high quality, at least high on drama, with all going into the final over. But this game was shaping up to be the one that would outshine them all. Both sides are stacked with current internationals, with the Stars boosted by the last minute inclusion of Lasith Malinga. The Sixers even went into the game with their number of medically obese players halved (Mark Cosgrove was out injured, possibly after trying to tie his shoelaces). The stage was set for an epic encounter. You may note we are using the past tense a lot here. The reason for that is the match turned out to be a one sided slaughter, with the Stars romping home by 77 runs, confirming their position as favourites for this season’s title.
The Stars began the massacre with Luke Wright (!!!!) smashing Brett Lee to all parts which, for some reason, caused Twitter to implode in a fury of bad jokes about Piers Morgan and the ability of Englishmen to face Lee. We’re still scratching our heads about that one. In order to stem the flow, the Sixers turned to Ravi Bopara, who sent down one of the worst spells ever seen in T20 cricket, at one point bowling three leg side wides in a row. Unsurprisingly, this tactic failed to halt the Stars, who gallivanted away to a total of exactly 200. In reply, the Sixers never got going. Michael Lumb took after Jackson Bird early on, but Bird returned in his second spell to clean him up and from there it was all one way traffic. Even a magnificent mid-order 5 from 10 deliveries by Bopara failed to turn things in the Sixers’ favour.
The Sixers meekly capitulated thereafter, and Malinga was only required to bowl the two overs in the end. It’s amazing how much better a team the Stars look for having rid themselves of the self-obsessed posturing of Shane Warne that dogged them all last season. At the moment they are clearly the best side on paper, and also the only team to win both their opening games. We would be very surprised if they were not eventually crowned champions when they competition finishes up sometime mid-next century.