Defending champions Sydney Sixers have marched into another final, this time by thrashing Perth Scorchers by nine wickets. For the Scorchers, there was nothing but despair today. They were let down, a touch by the conditions but largely by themselves.
They won the toss and opted to bat first which basically decided the outcome of this match. The pitch was sticky for a major part of the first innings and on any other day, 167 would be deemed as a good effort by the batting side. On this occasion, however, the stickiness vanished in the second innings. A 10 degree drop in temperature in Canberra led to wet conditions which made the pitch an absolute batting paradise. The Sixers’ top-order - Josh Phillipe, James Vince and Daniel Hughes - made full use of the dew as they crossed the finishing line with nine wickets in hand and 18 balls to spare.
But on the other hand, the Scorchers dropped Vince thrice. They fielded poorly, allowing easy runs and the bowlers didn't do well under pressure.
That, though, should not take the shine of Vince’s knock. He timed the ball in invincible fashion, hitting boundaries off the pacers and spinners at will. At first, he was the supporting act to Josh Phillipe who scored 45 off 28 balls. The duo forged a 92-run stand in only 53 balls to put the Sixers in a dominant position. They brought up 53 runs in the four-over Powerplay, a contrasting start to that of the Scorchers who trudged to 30 for one in the first four overs of their innings. At this point, Vince was on 15 while Phillipe had scored 26. Every over brought runs in double digits.
Once Phillipe was dismissed to Liam Livingstone’s part-time leg-spin, Vince, 45 at this point, did not allow the Scorchers to transfer the pressure. In an unbeaten 76-run stand for the second wicket with Daniel Hughes, Vince contributed 53 from 28 balls.
A hundred was in sight for Vince when he took a single on the second ball of the 17th over - five runs left in the run-chase and the Englishman was only two away from his first BBL ton. A hook from Hughes sent the ball for four bringing Vince’s hundred into jeopardy. Hughes needed to face three dots for Vince to get a hundred. Such were the situations that the crowd and the batting side were cheering dot balls during the slog overs. Hughes dug out two yorkers - from Jhye Richardson - and swayed away from a short ball to let Vince have a crack at a well-deserved ton.
However, Andrew Tye, in the next over, delivered a wide which ended the game, leaving Vince stranded on 98. An apology from Tye suggested this was not done on purpose.
Earlier, the Scorchers put 167 runs on the board batting first, which was not a bad effort, given the start they had. Jason Roy and Livingstone, as they have done throughout this campaign, went for the big shots early on but nothing came off on a wicket where the ball stuck into the pitch. Ben Dwarshuis set the tone with a one-run first over. It took the Scorchers until the third over to get the boundary count going and that too was done by Colin Munro, their number three batsman.
After Livingstone’s departure in the sixth over, taken by Carlos Brathwaite, Josh Inglis steadied the Scorchers’ innings alongside Munro. The two added 42 runs off 36 balls for the third wicket. While the partnership was the need of the hour for the batting side, it had one drawback - Inglis contributed 30 runs to the stand which kept Munro bereft of the strike.
Having looked in supreme form until then, Munro lost his touch. As the Sixers’ bowlers strung some dot balls together, Munro went for the big shot to break the shackles. In the 12th over, he found Jordan Silk in the deep, despite timing the ball to perfection. Mitchell Marsh soon fell prey to the horrific umpiring that has been going on this BBL season. The umpire raised his finger while the appeal seemed only to be a hoax to distract the umpire from giving a wide. The bowler Steve O’Keefe was surprised himself while Marsh walked off with a mouthful for the official.
Those two wickets pushed the Scorchers back in their surge for a big total but a grand start to the death-overs phase put them back on track. They opted for the Power Surge to initiate the phase and made it count, shifting the momentum in their favour.
Skipper Ashton Turner took charge, teeing up against Sean Abbott who bowled the 16th over. Abbott kept bowling length and Turner continued hitting him square over the in-field. Turner milked 16 runs off the first three balls and Inglis added to Abbott’s agony with another boundary on the penultimate ball of the over.
The Scorchers scored 69 runs in the last five overs. However, this could have been more. Dwarshuis’ last over - the 19th of the innings - saw them score only eight runs at the cost of two wickets. Turner and Richardson holed out in the deep in search of a boundary.
Inglis, however, carried on. He had notched up his fifty in the 18th over and ended unbeaten on 69. It was one of his more responsible knocks, but unfortunately, it went in vain. Maybe the story could have been different if he had held onto a tough chance to send Vince back in the seventh over, when the Englishman was on 33. But it was also the toughest of opportunities provided by Vince today. The Scorchers will now await the loser of the Knockout, against whom they shall lock horns in the Challenger which gives them a second shot at making it to the final.