The score: Sydney Thunder 5-150 from 20 overs def Sydney Sixers 9-149 from 20 overs
Match in a tweet: Watson-inspired Thunder win a last-ball epic over their rivals as Blizzard and Nair keep their cool amid the drama of the last over #BBL07
The hero: New Sydney Thunder skipper Shane Watson got his BBL|07 campaign off to a flyer by crunching 77 from just 46 balls. The man of the match hammered half-a-dozen sixes in a brutal display, with one maximum off Steve O’Keefe measured at 102m by Channel Ten’s Gus the Goose. Watson was involved in a 75-run stand with Kurtis Patterson for the second wicket after the Thunder lost Jos Buttler in the first over. Experienced allrounder Watson entered the season opener in fine form after belting an unbeaten 114, including 16 sixes, for Sutherland in a Twenty20 clash earlier this month, having also knocked up a mammoth 184 off 151 balls in a grade match in October.
The last over: With the Thunder needing 15 runs for victory and Spotless Stadium jumping, talented youngster Arjun Nair stood up, hitting the first two deliveries of the last over from Sean Abbott for boundaries before a single off the third brought Aiden Blizzard on strike. A half volley was flicked past fine leg, leaving the equation at two runs from as many balls. Two singles from the final two balls completed the job, giving the Thunder their fourth victory over their crosstown rivals from 12 attempts.
The surprise packet: The name Daniel Sams may not jump off the page, but he snared four key wickets in a memorable debut for the Sixers. With his team defending 149, the 25-year-old removed England wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler in the first over, broke the partnership between Patterson and Watson when he sent the former back to the pavilion, claimed Ryan Gibson’s scalp and topped off a super display when he had Watson caught by Moises Henriques. While it wasn’t a match-winning performance, it was enough to suggest the left-armer will get plenty more opportunities during the tournament.
The victim: Buttler had to contend with a nasty bounce as he attempted to collect an Andrew Fekete throw from deep square leg. The Englishman was assessed by support staff under Cricket Australia’s concussion guidelines, but was declared fit to continue and stood behind the stumps for the remainder of the innings. However, if that blow wasn’t enough, the belligerent batsman lasted just three balls at the crease and was dismissed by Sixers left-armer Sams in the first over of his team’s innings, capping a forgettable match for the experienced international.
The support cast: Thunder spin twins Fawad Ahmed (2-11) and Nair (2-29) combined for 4-40 from eight overs to halt the Sixers’ momentum when they appeared on track for a big score. The Sixers powered their way to 1-55 after six overs before Ahmed trapped Nic Maddinson, who had raced his way to 31 from only 20 balls, lbw. From there, the Sixers had moments of brilliance, but wickets continued falling regularly, with New Zealander Mitch McClenaghan (2-25) also impressive. In contrast, Sixers slow bowlers O’Keefe and Botha returned 1-61 from their eight overs. While the Thunder started slowly – they were 1-37 after the powerplay – Watson’s superb hitting proved enough.
The stat: Ahmed’s extraordinary spell of 2-11 was the most economical by a Thunder bowler in the club’s history as he conceded only 2.75 runs per over, eclipsing the 3-13 suspended West Indian allrounder Andre Russell returned from four overs in the corresponding fixture in BBL|05. Fawad put the Sixers in a spin with a haul of 4-14 in the previous meeting between the pair in January – the best ever figures for a Thunder bowler – and again stamped his mark on this contest. The leg-spinner inked a new two-year contract with the Thunder in January after collecting 15 wickets in the past two BBL seasons.
The turning point: With the Thunder needing 41 from 22 balls and having to lift their run rate to take the points, key man Watson launched an assault on the leading wicket-taker of BBL|06, Abbott. With Ryan Gibson struggling to find the rope at the other end, the first two deliveries of Abbott’s over cost just one run, before Watson smacked a six and two fours to push the equation in his side’s favour. Sixteen came from the over, leaving the Thunder with 26 to get from 18 balls. While Gibson and Watson lost their wickets before victory was achieved, the onslaught brought the equation back in the Thunder’s favour.
The silly point: Ladies and Gentleman, Gus the Goose is back from the dead.
The Fantasy wrap: Allrounder Watson ($100,100) was man-of-the-match and impressed with 121 points, but he fell short of bargain buy Daniel Sams ($30,000), who logged 129 in a stellar debut.
What's next: The Sixers will be looking to rebound against last season’s champions the Perth Scorchers at the SCG on Saturday in a replay of the BBL|06 decider, while the Thunder, who could benefit from the return of Callum Ferguson from a groin injury, will meet the Adelaide Strikers at Adelaide Oval on Friday.