"What plans should we take against you?" - Adelaide Strikers wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey jokingly asked Alex Hales who was smacking them all around the park at the Adelaide Oval. The hosts looked clueless against Hales who once again played a huge role in Sydney Thunder's victory in their final league game of the Big Bash League 2020/21 on Monday (January 25). The Men in Green hammered Adelaide by nine wickets in a rain-curtailed encounter and confirmed their spot in the finals.
The Thunder are now placed at No. 3 in the points table and the only way they could lose that spot is if Hobart Hurricanes defeat Melbourne Renegades by a massive margin on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Strikers could still make it to the finals but will need a couple of results to go in their favour on Tuesday.
Jake Weatherald (47-ball 80*) was the only Adelaide player who turned up against Sydney. The left-handed opener smashed eight fours and four maximums and single-handedly propelled the Strikers to a competitive total of 115/4 in 14 overs. The Thunder lost Usman Khawaja early but Hales (39-ball 63*) and Callum Ferguson (33-ball 46*) shared an unbeaten 116-run stand and got the job done with almost two overs to spare.
WEATHERALD, THE LONE WARRIOR
The start was delayed due to rain and the game was reduced to 14 overs per side. Adam Milne, who finished with figures of 1/6 against the same opponent on Sunday, was once again phenomenal with the new ball. The New Zealand paceman along with Brendan Doggett didn't allow Weatherald and Carey to get off to a flying start but it was Nathan McAndrew who provided Sydney the first breakthrough.
In-form Carey (2) tried to break the shackles in the third over but ended up mistiming one straight into the hands of a fielder at mid-off. The Strikers could only manage 15 in the powerplay (1-3). Adelaide were scoring at less than six runs per over and were in desperate need of a move on. Philip Salt (1) tried to take on Tanveer Sangha but was caught at deep mid-wicket. Skipper Travis Head (2) too couldn't contribute either and fell to Chris Green.
Weatherald kept the scoreboard ticking with occasional boundaries but didn't find much support from the other end. The Strikers were going nowhere with their innings but that's when Weatherald took the attack to Sangha. The left-handed opener along with Jonathan Wells smashed the young leg spinner for 17 runs in the ninth over and finally got some momentum into the innings.
Milne returned to bowl the Power Surge over but was taken out for 18 runs. After Wells slammed Milne for consecutive boundaries, Weatherald did the same and brought up his fifty off 36 deliveries. The runs started flowing and the two batsmen managed to put the Sydney bowlers under some pressure. Weatherald in particular played some ferocious shots, smoking Green for two maximums in one over.
Wells (21 off 18) played his part but it was Weatherald who did most of the scoring. The 26-year-old played his shots all around the park and single-handedly got the Strikers to a competitive total. Having scored just 39 in the first eight overs, Adelaide smoked 76 runs in the last six.
HALES DOES IT AGAIN
The Thunder got off to the worst possible start as Daniel Worrall knocked over Khawaja for a golden duck with a superb inswinger. Worrall was almost unplayable in the first over. Michael Neser and Peter Siddle released the pressure by bowling a couple of looseners. In-form Hales smacked Siddle for a maximum over deep mid-wicket to get the ball rolling, while Ferguson too batted freely from the word go.
Worrall didn't look threatening in his second over and Hales and Ferguson made the most of it. The two scored at a pretty decent pace and claimed the crucial Bash Boost point with the utmost ease. Hales greeted Wes Agar with back-to-back boundaries and didn't allow the seamer to settle. In the process, the Englishman became the first batsman to cross the 500-run mark this season.
The likes of Agar, Liam O'Connor and Neser were either too full or too short and Hales and Ferguson pounced on every scoring opportunity. The duo batted very smartly and put Sydney in a commanding position, without taking any additional unnecessary risks.
With 35 needed off 30 deliveries, Hales clobbered O'Connor for a six and brought up yet another fifty this season. In the process, he also broke the record of most sixes hit by a batsman in a BBL season. Ferguson too was aggressive in his own way and got the job done by slamming Siddle for a boundary down the ground.