The Sydney Thunder have narrowly avoided a calamity to qualify for the finals after edging past wooden spooners the Melbourne Stars by three wickets at the MCG on Wednesday night with seven balls to spare.
After Hobart upset Brisbane earlier in the day to move into fifth spot, Sydney had to beat the Stars in the last match of the regular season to finish in the top five.
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And when they held Melbourne to a paltry 7-119, they looked like they booked their spot in the finals.
Instead, they fell to 5-60 in the 12th over to turn a seemingly straightforward run chase into a nailbiting task.
When Ben Cutting was run out by Luke Wood in the 15th over, the visitors fell to 6-80 and their fate looked sealed five balls later when Chris Green floated Nathan Coulter-Nile to short fine leg where Adam Zampa was waiting underneath it.
However the Stars captain dropped an absolute sitter to give Green a life on one instead of reducing Sydney to 7-85.
Daniel Sams added insult to injury for Zampa when he cracked a pair of fours and a six in the next six balls to propel the Thunder to 6-104 in the 17th over.
Zampa bowled Sams for 28 (off 18 balls), meaning Sydney needed 16 off 21 for victory with three wickets in hand, and Green (six not out) and Nathan McAndrew (12 not out) guided the Thunder to 7-120 to send the Hurricanes back outside the top five right at the death.
The result means the Thunder have finished the season in fourth spot, and will host Brisbane on Friday night in the ‘Eliminator’ final, the winner of which will face the Melbourne Renegades in the ‘Knockout’ final at Marvel Stadium on Sunday night.
Top teams Perth and the Sydney Sixers will face off in the ‘Qualifier’ final at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
But the Thunder might have to take on the Heat without strike bowler Gurinder Sandhu who injured his calf early on and couldn’t take any further part in the game after bowling the first and third overs of the match.
THUNDER BOWLERS ON SONG
Earlier in the game, the Thunder’s bowling attack was magnificent, with five of their seven bowlers going at 6.5 an over or less, which made life very tough for the hosts, who were given very few meaningful scoring opportunities and only managed seven fours and one six. Usman Qadir (3-24 from four overs) and Green (2-19 from four) were the standouts – the former taking the key scalps of Marcus Stoinis (eight), Tom Rogers (35) and Beau Webster (14) while Green dismissed Hilton Cartwright (36).
ZAMPA STARS AGAIN
Zampa might have dropped a sitter at a crucial stage, but he was once again brilliant with the ball, taking 3-25 from his four overs including 10 dot balls. He combined with Liam Hatcher, Coulter-Nile and Beau Webster to apply the pressure significantly on the Thunder who failed to hit a boundary for 32 balls and lost 4-29 at one stage.
WARNER WOES CONTINUE
David Warner’s underwhelming return to the Big Bash continued on Wednesday night when he departed for two in the second over attempting to pull Luke Wood from outside off stump, gifting Tom Rogers an easy catch at mid-wicket. The champion Test opener has now only managed 63 runs in his five knocks for Sydney at an average of just 12.60.
HUSSEY BIDS FAREWELL
David Hussey has coached his final game with the Stars, after accepting the role as head of men’s cricket at Cricket Victoria. In his four years with the Stars, he won 26 of 59 games at a success rate of 44 per cent. His tenure was bookended by a final appearance in his first season, and a wooden spoon in his last.