Sydney Sixers captain Daniel Hughes has steered his side towards a thrilling victory against the Melbourne Stars at Metricon Stadium on Saturday evening.
Hughes (96 off 51 balls) struck the highest score by a Sixers player in BBL history to secure the unlikely win on the Gold Coast, which finished after midnight local time with a final over that couldn’t be scripted.
An explosive partnership between Australian powerhouse Glenn Maxwell and West Indies import Nicholas Pooran wasn’t enough for the Stars, who were eventually toppled by one wicket.
The Sixers chose to bowl first after winning the toss, and all-rounder Jason Holder immediately removed West Indies teammate Andrew Fletcher in the opening over, caught at mid-on for four.
Hilton Cartwright followed suit soon after, skying a short ball from paceman Ben Dwarshuis on 14.
Veteran tweaker Steve O’Keefe then trapped Nick Larkin in front for two, before dismissing Ben Dunk caught in the outfield or 24.
But Maxwell (71* off 47) and Pooran (65 off 26) combined for a remarkable 125-run partnership, guiding the Stars towards a formidable total of 5/193.
The run chase started horrifically, with Sixers opener Jack Edwards and English international James Vince both removed for a duck.
Hughes steadied the ship through the middle overs to ensure his side won the Bash Boost bonus point at the 10-over mark. He combined with Josh Philippe for a 50-run stand before Stars leg-spinner Adam Zampa struck with his first delivery of the match.
Brief cameos from Holder (18 off 11 balls) and West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite (21 off 12 balls) set up a thrilling conclusion, in which the Sixers required 23 runs from the final two overs.
Pace bowler Liam Hatcher (3/33 off four overs) snared two crucial scalps in the penultimate over to put the Stars back in the favourable position.
But Hughes struck three consecutive boundaries off Maxwell’s next over to make the equation four runs required off three balls.
Hughes was then caught on the boundary rope at mid-wicket in yet another twist, meaning the Sixers tailenders had to muster four runs from two balls.
And to everybody’s surprise, the winnings runs came from leg byes, with the ball flying past the wicketkeeper and towards the third man boundary.
It was the first time these two clubs had met since last year’s BBL Final, and the Sixers couldn’t resist rubbing salt into their opponent’s wounds one more time.
TRINIDADIAN’S STUNNING BBL INCEPTION
The Stars were 4/49 when Trinidadian batsman Nicholas Pooran waltzed to the crease in the ninth over, and he could only manage four runs from his first six deliveries.
But Pooran then slapped 42 runs off his next eight balls to completely rattle the defending champions.
He cracked eight sixes and brought up his half-century in just 17 deliveries, making it the fastest fifty by a Stars player in BBL history.
On Channel 7’s coverage, former Australian batsman Brad Hodge called it “one of the best BBL innings you will ever see”.
UMPIRE’S NASTY BLOW
On Boxing Day, umpire Phillip Gillespie showed why several officials have opted to wear helmets and arm guards in the T20 format.
During the 12th over of the run chase, Daniel Christian smashed a delivery from Stars spinner Zahir Khan straight back past the bowler.
Before he even had time to react, the ball struck Gillespie firmly on the hip, and he immediately hit the deck.
Thankfully he was able to continue officiating the match following a two-minute breather.
ANOTHER X-FACTOR BLUNDER
Fans are still unconvinced by the newly-introduced X-Factor innovation, and the Sixers proved why on Saturday.
After spin bowler Ben Manenti conceded five runs off his maiden over, he was subbed out for former Australian seam bowler Gurinder Sandhu.
Unfortunately, Sandhu was pummelled for 28 runs in his only two overs of the match, and the paceman joined a growing list of X-Factor flops.