Nearly halfway through the competition (we can hear the sighs of relief from here), things finally started to get going for the Big Bash, with large crowds turning up around the country for the first time. Suggesting that, even at the third time of trying, the organisers still have no idea when is the best time for the competition to begin. Either that or there are simply more drunk/bored/insane folks around who suddenly think watching the Sydney Thunder lose their eleventy millionth game in a row is a good way to spend three hours or so of their post-new year lives. As an alternative to spending even more time with the relatives over the holiday season, it’s probably not too bad an option really.
Weird old game this one. On a pitch that had seen both sides post 200+ totals only a few days previously, the Sixers struggled to 140/8 of their overs. A total which, as is it turned out, was just enough to hold off the fast finishing Heat and hand the Sixers their second win of the competition.
The Sixers started well enough, with Michael Lumb clattering the Heat everywhere, but a rush of mid-order wickets left the Sixers scrounging for runs like us for spare change behind the couch two days after pay day. Ravi Bopara continued his stellar form by inching to 13 of 11 deliveries before deciding it was all beyond him and nicking behind, leaving the tail to flail around ineffectively till the end. In return Craig Kieswetter similarly went ballistic at the top of the order, while the rest of the line-up crumbled around him. He became bogged down mid-innings though, and the reintroduction of Brett Lee brought about his demise, with Jordan Silk taking a fairly standard catch at mid-on to remove him.
The Heat still very nearly got over the line, although the decision to leave their best hitter, Ben Cutting, loitering in the shed until the final overs bemused everyone. In the end Cutting had two balls to hit an improbable 11 runs for the Heat to win. The first ball disappeared into the stands, the second fell just short and into the hands of long mid-off. Having probably your most effective batsman at number eight in the order is the sort of tactical acumen the Sydney Thunder would be proud of.
On the subject of the Thunder, their fourth match of the tournament predictably brought about their fourth loss, and their 16th on the trot. There had been an attempt in the Perth media to portray former Scorcher Michael Hussey as some sort of Judas, but in the end most in crowd seemed to feel sorry for him more than anything. Captaining a side like the Thunder is a punishment most wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy.
The Thunder began this one reasonably competently, but the wheels very quickly fell off. Tilakaratne Dilshan’s insistence on attempting the ‘Dil-scoop’ every second delivery (it must be written into his contract) predictably backfired before long, and when Michael Hussey fell for 13 soon after the writing was on the wall. Eoin Morgan was the Thunder’s last hope, but when he was run-out in bizarre circumstances for 48, having dived and made his ground but with his bat in the air at the time of impact, it was all pretty much over. The Scorchers had no real problems chasing down the total of 157, although the game did just barely creep into the final over.
The greatest interest for much of the Scorcher’s innings came from the revelation that Simon Katich’s match winning innings of 75 had been made with a broken finger, Tom Moody trawling through Adam Gilchrist’s text messages, and one of the Thunder’s fielders revealing that their game-plan had been to ‘squeeze the Scorcher’s batsmen in the ring’.
Undoubtedly the biggest match of the round, the Melbourne derby was last year lit up by Shane Warne and his little tete-a-tete with Marlon Samuels. This time it was the actual cricket that had everyone talking. That and a couple of kids in the crowd shining lasers into the batsmens’ eyes. The little scoundrels.
The Renegades batted first and were on rocky ground when Jackson Bird (who else?) took three wickets in the second over of the innings. From there the Renegades patiently rebuilt, not losing another wicket till the 17th over. Importantly Aaron Finch was still there at the end, and on strike for the final over, which he subsequently bludgeoned to the tune of 25 runs. Finch’s 84* also included one shot that hit the closed roof at the Etihad Stadium. In the past that would have been deemed a dead ball, but these days it registers as a six, because this is T20 cricket and fuck you bowlers.
163 seemed a reasonable total to defend. It didn’t turn out that way. Luke Wright, as usual, got things started, but when he fell for 17 two of the most maligned men of Australian cricket, Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell, went ballistic. White ended on 84 from 49 deliveries, Maxwell 58 from 28, with the pair hitting 10 sixes between them. Needless to say the Stars ran down the total with plenty of time to spare to remain undefeated. Have we mentioned before that they are really quite good? Well they are.
One of the best things about the Big Bash is the commentary. Maybe it’s just because its so refreshing not having to put up with the usual utter dickheads who populate the Channel Nine box, but much of the commentary interplay between Damien Fleming, Mark Waugh and co comes across as genuinely funny. Except when Ricky Ponting is involved of course, who unsurprisingly often comes across as a very angry little man. Whotalkswaytoofast.
One of the unfortunate consequences of having locals call the game is that they are often utterly clueless when it comes to the imported players in the competition. Such was the case here when the Thunder’s newest recruit, Shakib Al Hasan, made his debut. Nobody seemed to know the least bit about him. That soon changed though, when Shakib rescued the Strikers from a rare top order collapse that saw Alex Hales yet again fail to score a total of note. Shakib’s 46 lifted the Strikers to a total of 149, which always felt a little sub-par, and indeed the Sixers had little trouble running it down. Michael Lumb again anchored the Sixers innings, scoring his second half century in a row, and a supremely disinterested Ravi Bopara somehow managed to stick around to the end and see the Sixers home with 5 balls and 6 wickets to spare.