The Sydney Sixers and Adelaide Strikers will put their respective Big Bash League seasons on the line on Australia Day with the second spot in the grand final up for grabs when they meet in a sudden-death clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
This match was supposed to be the Sixers and Thunder in a knockout version of the Sydney Smash, however, a stunning win for the Strikers on Sunday night ended the men in green’s campaign early and robbed Sydney fans of what would have been expected to be a derby with extra fire.
Instead, Peter Siddle’s men in blue held their nerve to defend 184 against the Thunder, winning by just six runs.
It’s the Strikers batting which has come to the fore during a winning run, having beaten the Hurricanes in the fourth against fifth finals match to start the knockout rounds, and prior to that, beating the Sixers, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat to bring a winning streak of six into this match.
Their batting, as mentioned, has been the star of the show. They have made scores of 161, 155, 188 and 184 when batting first in those games, while also chasing down 161 with two and a half overs to spare and 127 with three overs to spare. They have failed to falter with the bat in hand, with Matthew Short leading the way. He has hit his stride at the back end of the season, posting three half-centuries on his way to 487 runs at 34.78, but more impressively, a strike rate of 156.
He has been ably blacked up by Jono Wells, who now has 439 runs at a strike rate of 128, while the return of Travis Head and Alex Carey from Test duty has added plenty of depth to the line up. With Ian Cockbain and Matt Renshaw also going along strongly, it’s little surprise to see the Adelaide-based franchise batting as well as they have been.
The problem for the Strikers has been their bowling. They haven’t had to worry due to the runs they have put up in recent times, but all of their key weapons have gone at high economy rates for much of the season.
Peter Siddle might be the leading wicket-taker, but he has gone at 8.34 runs per over, while Rashid Khan is the only over Strikers bowler with more than ten wickets, and even if his economy rate is a superb 6.34, he can’t simply do it all on his own.
The Sixers have too much experience and too much power in their batting line-up to let that get in their way of marching straight through the Strikers on their way to a potential three-peat of Big Bash League crowns.
Led by Josh Philipee and Moises Henriques, the Sixers batting has also been outstanding for much of the season, although faltered in a bad way against the Scorchers. Their inconsistency is a worry, but against an attack leaking runs in a big way, they will back themselves to score enough runs in this match.
Philipee has 429 runs with a strike rate of 143, while Henriques has 420 at a strike rate of 136. Add that to the likes of Dan Christian and Daniel Hughes, and it’s clear to see why the Sixers managed to work themselves up to second at the end of the season.
It’s that finals and big-game experience which could come in valuable here, while Sean Abbott has been on song with the ball and could lead the attack to restricting the Strikers to a lower score than what they have been able to muster in their incredible six game streak.
This won’t be a walk in the park, but the Sixers should win and progress to another final against the Scorchers.
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