A Daniel Hughes special scripts a win for the ages

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26 Dec 2020 | 09:48 AM
authorCricket.com Staff

A Daniel Hughes special scripts a win for the ages

After special knocks from Maxwell and Pooran, Hughes turned out to be the show-stopper with a 96-run knock

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It turned out to be a game, the odds of which oscillated from camp to camp. For the first 11 overs of their innings, the Stars innings was going nowhere with them being 64/4. In the next nine overs, helped by a thumping Glenn Maxwell and a berserk Nicholas Pooran, they added 129 more runs.

While chasing, the Sixers lost wickets at regular intervals and were 128/6 at the end of 15 overs. This also included two overs of the Power Surge where-in they scored 17 runs, as compared to 49 scored by Pooran and Maxwell during their innings: a BBL record.

But, some exceptional death overs hitting, the presence of a set batsman and an injury to a key bowler earned them a victory for the ages. 

A tough start for Stars

Missing the services of Marcus Stoinis, who was rested, Stars got off to a poor start. The new ball behaved like a shining red cherry in the morning of a Test. There was seam movement for both the new ball bowlers for the Sixers - Jason Holder and Ben Dwarshuis.

Andre Fletcher has a history of struggle against his Test skipper, Holder, in T20s. Before this game, He has scored 29 runs off him in 25 balls with Holder dismissing him thrice in this span.

Tonight, Holder intimidated his compatriot with a fiery first over which started leaves and a hit on the arm. It ended as it started with Fletcher losing his patience and skying one to long-on.

The Sixers continued the choke after the Powerplay. Up until the last over before the team in Green took the power surge in the 13th over, the Stars scored 42 runs in seven overs and lost three wickets.

Bowling his second over post the Powerplay, Dwarshuis deployed the short ball plan. It hurt him to begin with after Hilton Cartwright pulled him with disdain over the leg side fence. The same tactic worked as Cartwright failed to control the second short ball and hit it down the throat of deep square leg. 

The Stars slid further after Steve O'Keefe owned Nick Larkin. Opting a poor option of sweeping a full ball, Larkin missed and was as plumb as plumb gets. If the Powerplay was about extracting seam movement with the new ball, Holder used his slower ball variations in his second spell. Even Carlos Brathwaite kept the batsmen devoid of room.

By the second over of O'Keefe - ninth of the innings - Dunk laboured on a 25-ball 24. Looking to counterattack he lobbed up an easy catch to long-off.

The Maxwell Pooran Show

Looking at the spongy nature of the wicket and assistance for pacers, the Stars subbed out Ben Manenti. Despite him having bowled a quiet over that went for five. Gurinder Sandhu took his spot at the mid-innings timeout. 

After Sandhu finished bowling his first over, the Sixer must have wondered that they were better off with the original XI. Bowling the 12th over, Sandhu started with a wide - the first of the innings. His over was decent until the last two balls. Bowled at a length, Nicholas Pooran unleashed two consecutive pulls to announce himself in the BBL.

After Pooran infused the innings with momentum at the end of the 12th over, Glenn Maxwell opted for the Power Surge. The pair took the innings from a slumber into an overdrive in the two overs.

Dan Christian's tactics of bowling from around the wicket to a right-hander backfired against Maxwell. That over had everything, it started with a no-ball, it had a wide, Maxwell hit two fours and a six via a cross-batted punch over long. With the last ball of that over began the Pooran show. 

He hit the last ball of Christian's over for six over long-on. In the next over by Dwarshuis, he hit three sixes. The first, a swivelled pull to the backward square leg fence. Second, the shot of the day, a crisp drive over the long-off fence and the last one similar to the one earlier in the same region. From the first six against Sandhu in the 12th over to that against Dwarshuis in the 14th, Pooran scored 42 runs in eight balls.

Post the Power Surge, the boys from the Caribbean tried to bring some semblance back to Sixer's bowling. Both Holder and Brathwaite bowled yorker lengths to try and keep the pair at bay. Still then, Maxwell was able to hit Holder for two boundaries while Pooran timed Brathwaite for a six in the extra cover region. With that shot, he notched his fifty in 17-balls which is the fastest for Stars ever.

Christian continued to have on off-day both the batsmen hit him for a six on the leg side. Sandhu's addition as an X-factor continued to hurt Sixers as he lacked control and even gave five wides in the 18th over. However, he did put an end to the Pooran carnage who was well taken by Holder at long-off.

Brathwaite bowled a decent last over but missed hitting the blockhole twice. On both occasions, Maxwell - hogging the strike- made him pay, with a four and six to end the innings on a high and a daunting target for the defending champs.

Sixer’s reply

A short ball plan, the need for all-out attack put the Sixers on backfoot in the first two overs. Chasing a mammoth 194, they got off to a horror start, losing two wickets in consecutive overs to start. The tallest bowler in BBL - Billy Stanlake - removed Jack Edwards in the first over. He fell straight into the trap and pulled a short ball to deep backward square.

It was the turn of Nathan Coulter-Nile to make merry in the next over. Attempting a lazy flick to a back of a length ball, James Vince could only get a leading-edge take could not cross Maxwell in the short third-man region.

Sixer's skipper Daniel Hughes tried proving some fuel to chase, hitting a silky four and six through the on in Stanlake's next over. But, the Powerplay did not go per the liking of the Sixers.

Extra pace of Stanlake continued to assist Daniel Hughes as he flicked him for four on the leg side in the sixth over. In the same over, Josh Philippe hit him over the long-on fence for his first six of the night.

Two misfields, a tough first one at backward point and then at sweeper cover by Pooran resulted in a boundary off the first ball Zahir Khan bowled in BBL. Another misfield in the same over by Pooran gave Sixers one more easy boundary.

Starting his spell in the eighth over of the innings, Adam Zampa ended Philippe's lumbered knock after he hit a reverse sweep to backward point.   

While wickets continuing to tumble around him, Hughes remain unperturbed. He took the attack to Zampa in his next over - 10th of the innings - hitting him with the spin for two sixes - one to cow corner and one straight down the ground. 

Post the mid-innings break, Liam Hatcher removed Jordan Silk, having him caught at deep square leg. This brought Dan Christian to the crease. After hitting the second-fastest BBL half-century in the last game, he continued where he left off.

After a couple off his first ball, Christian drove Hatcher for a four on the offside. He then thumped him over long-on for a six on the next ball. 

If two misfields spoilt his first over, a missed stumping in Zakir's second over was more hurtful. His googly not only foxed Christian - who came down the ground - but also Ben Dunk behind the wicket who failed to collect it.

The Power Surge started awfully for the team in pink after an inside edge off Christian in the 13th over by Coulter-Nile found his stumps. The Aussie international finished that over off with just one boundary. 

Holder, in next was able to hit Stanlake for a convincing six to the cow corner, But, he played and missed the entire over until a top-edge of the last ball earned him another boundary. 

At the end of the Power Surge, Sixers needed 77 runs in six overs, not insurmountable but difficult. This became even more challenging after Zampa removed Jason Holder in the next over, having him caught at long-off. 

But, it was the counter-attack of Hughes against Zampa in 18th over that kindled fire to the run-chase. In what turned out to be 20-run over, he deposited the last two balls into the stands, one a brilliant hit on the offside and the second a slog sweep to the leg. This reduced the target to 23 off 12 balls.

Before this, Brathwaite contributed his bit, smashing a Zahir short ball in the second tier in the 17th over. This was after he took the attack on the young Hatcher in an over earlier, hitting him for a six and a four.

It was Hatcher bowling the 19th over that turned the tide once more. In an exceptional over, he gave only three runs while accounting for Brathwaite first and then Dwarshuis. Brathwaite failed to cross Maxwell at long-on while Dwarshuis lost his stumps.   

Then came the pivotal moment in the match. Brought down by injury, Coulter-Nile could not bowl the last over. Maxwell then took the mantle of defending 20 runs on himself. This turned out to be a bad gamble as Hughes hit his first three balls for two sixes and a four. With four needed off three, the drama unfolded again as Hughes could not clear deep square leg on the next ball and fell for a memorable 51-ball 96. Fortune favoured the Sixers as the next ball, bowled from around the wicket ended up being a full toss, hit the thighs of Steve O'Keefe and went to the third man fence. 

With an almost won game snatched away from his side, Maxwell looked shell shocked. His counterpart in the opponent had just played one of the best innings in BBL ever.

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Melbourne StarsSydney SixersBig Bash League, 2020/21Glenn James MaxwellNicholas PooranDaniel Peter Hughes

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