The score: Sydney Thunder 3-149 (Shane Watson 49no, Usman Khawja 44; Liam Bowe 2-30) defeated Melbourne Stars 6-147 (Peter Handscomb 57, Seb Gotch 31; Chris Green 2-27) by seven wickets with 23 balls to spare
Match in a tweet: Watson, Khawaja and Vince combine to crush the Melbourne Stars as Sydney Thunder stay alive in the finals race #BBL07
The hero: Experienced allrounder and Sydney Thunder skipper Shane Watson enjoyed a red-hot start to his KFC Big Bash League campaign, delivering four scores or 36 or more in his first five innings. The runs haven’t flowed as freely since, but tonight he crunched 49 from 28 balls after coming to the crease with his team in the driver’s seat at 1-85 chasing 148 for victory. Watson hit five boundaries and two sixes as the Stars attack had few answers. He also collected 1-34 from four overs and led his team well. No wonder he has stated his desire to play on in the T20 format next summer. Watson had plenty of competition, but was a deserved recipient of player of the match.
The support cast: As the pundits speculated whether the could defend a modest total and record their second win of the BBL season on a wicket that offered plenty for bowlers, Test No.3 Usman Khawaja stamped his authority with a rapid-fire 44. The elegant left-hander failed to reach 50 – he was dismissed by spinner Liam Bowe after racing to 44 from 25 balls – but he set the tone, combining with James Vince for an 85-run opening stand from just 50 balls. Khawaja thumped eight boundaries during an impressive stay at the crease and looked a class above, hitting four from the third over of the innings bowled by Dan Worrall and three from the fifth over from John Hastings. When Khawaja departed, the Thunder were on course for a much-needed victory to keep their finals hopes alive. The acquisition of England Test batsman Vince as an international replacement player looks a wise move from the Thunder as the right-hander powered his way to 40 from 29 balls, backing up his 34 against the Sydney Sixers in an innings that featured four boundaries and two sixes.
The consolation efforts: Promoted to open in the absence of Englishman Luke Wright, Peter Handscomb crunched 57 from 44 balls, including seven boundaries, in an impressive knock as he passed 50 for the first time in five innings in BBL|07. Handscomb signalled his intent in the third over after the Stars lost the toss and were sent in to bat, hitting Thunder spinner Chris Green for three boundaries. But Handscomb lacked support, with recalled Seb Gotch (31 from 25 balls) the only other Stars batsman to make more than 13. In only his fourth BBL appearance for the Stars, left-arm spinner Liam Bowe removed Khawaja and Vince in an encouraging display, finishing with 2-30 from his four overs.
The drop: The MCG was rocking as Stars paceman Jackson Coleman appeared to have caught Watson in the 10th over of the visitors run chase. But the ball spilled out as he hit the turf, with the third umpire opting to give Watson not out. What’s your call?
The Hollywood star: Hollywood movie star and new Melbourne Stars supporter Will Smith chatted to the Network Ten team before the BBL clash, revealing the match at the MCG was his first cricket experience and something that was on his “bucket list” before his 50th birthday in September.
The moment: Thunder spinner Fawad Ahmed delivered a superb wrong ‘un to end Glenn Maxwell’s stay at the crease. Fawad has been a consistent performer for his team in BBL|07, going wicket-less in only one match from nine starts and the departure of the dynamic Maxwell for only one proved a telling moment in the contest.
The victim: Callum Ferguson was forced from the field just four overs into the Stars innings because of a hamstring complaint. The Thunder batsman was attempting to chase down a Peter Handscomb drive when he pulled up sore just before the boundary rope while on the microphone for Network Ten. It was later confirmed Ferguson had suffered a right hamstring strain, which prevented him from fielding and he was not needed with the bat.
The fantasy wrap: Watson topped the rankings with 97 in a superb performance, while Handscomb (80) and Green and Khawaja (both 76) were the next best.
The next stops: The Stars will next take on the Sydney Sixers at the SCG on Tuesday night, while the Thunder will meet the Renegades at Manuka Oval on Wednesday night.