With the battle for the playoff spots heating up, every point is crucial at this stage of the competition. Hence, it was no surprise to see Sydney Thunder go for the Bash Boost point against Adelaide Strikers at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday (24 January 2021). After all, at the time, they had two set batsmen in Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson and seemed to be in a comfortable position with regards to the overall run-chase.
The decision, though, didn’t work. Needing 12 runs off the 10th over, both batsmen were dismissed off consecutive deliveries by Michael Neser. Not only did the Strikers secure the Bash Boost point, but they had a great opening, something they would capitalise on.
The Thunder would lose five wickets for 27 runs in a space of 27 deliveries and the match had suddenly turned on its head. At the start of the 10th over of the innings, Criclytics had the Thunder as the favourites with a 69% chance of a win. At the end of the 14th over, that percentage was just 28.
During this phase, Liam O'Connor did some superb work off his own bowling to run Sam Billings out, following which Travis Head added to the Thunder's misery by taking the wicket of Oliver Davies. The Strikers kept the pressure on, with O'Connor bowling a superb googly to dismiss Chris Green.
For a while, it looked like Thunder's decision to bring in Alex Ross as an X-Factor substitute might prove to be fruitful. But Jake Weatherald had other ideas, taking a superb one-handed catch to dismiss Ross, who had got a start. This dismissal put the Strikers in complete control of the game.
Nathan McAndrew then gave the Thunder some hope with three boundaries in the 18th over off Wes Agar, but it was Ben Cutting who held the key. Despite farming the strike and hitting some big shots, the target proved to be beyond Cutting's reach as the Strikers secured the win by six runs.
Earlier, Alex Hales – the top run-scorer in this season's BBL – wasn't able to make a meaningful contribution in this game. Experienced pacer Peter Siddle got the better of the Thunder opener for just 10. Siddle was, in fact, named the Player of the Match for taking two wickets and conceding only 22 runs from his four overs.
After the Strikers had opted to bat first, Adam Milne began proceedings with a fabulous opening over for the Thunder, troubling Alex Carey with his pace and bounce. But Carey got going immediately after as he struck two successive boundaries at the beginning of the second over. He repeated the same in the over that followed and the Strikers managed to get through the first four overs without losing a wicket.
Interestingly, in the Powerplay, the Strikers scored only five runs on the leg-side. On the other hand, Milne was excellent, conceding only two runs from his first couple of overs for the Thunder.
It was a decent start for the Strikers as the opening pair of Carey and Weatherald put on 42 for the first wicket. It was the former who did most of the scoring, but he did have some fortunate moments before eventually being dismissed by McAndrew for 29.
Weatherald, meanwhile, didn't get a lot of the strike at the start. As a result, he didn't get much of an opportunity to get any solid momentum going in his innings. He finally broke the shackles with consecutive sixes against Cutting in the ninth over. But he had to head back to the pavilion soon after, getting run-out while backing up at the non-striker's end. While his running was poor in this game, it was an unfortunate way to get dismissed.
After coming together, Philip Salt and Head did well to put on a partnership of 36 runs from 29 deliveries. With both batsmen getting starts, the Strikers decided to take the Power Surge at the start of the 15th over. The Power Surge overs are meant to be beneficial for the batting team, but as we've seen a few times this season, the move backfired, with Milne returning to take the wicket of Salt.
Not only did the Strikers lose the wicket of Salt, they managed to score just seven runs from two overs when the fielding restrictions were on.
Ryan Gibson then gave the Strikers the impetus that was required, hitting two sixes and a four against McAndrew with 20 runs coming off the 18th over. But just like what had happened previously, the Thunder fought back.
Brendan Doggett bowled a brilliant 19th over, taking two wickets and was inches away from a hat-trick as a yorker just missed the off-stump. Milne, who bowled splendidly all innings, followed up with a fantastic final over as the last dozen deliveries went for only six runs.
Milne bowled as many as 20 dot balls in his four-over spell, the joint-second most in an innings in BBL history. The record (21) is held by Mitchell Johnson who interestingly did so on the same date, January 24, four years ago.
On the back of that bowling effort, the Thunder were able to restrict the Strikers to 159/6. The latter, though, would have the last laugh.
With this win, the Strikers move above the Thunder on the league table. The two teams will face each other once again on Monday (25 January 2021) at the same venue in what will be the last league game for either side this season.