Sixers storm Thunder to confirm finals berth
The Sixers are back in the Big Bash semi-finals for the first time in two years and dreaming of an elusive second championship seven years since they won the inaugural title after silencing the Thunder in Saturday's Sydney Smash at the SCG.
Set a revised target of 84 off 12 overs to win after rain turned the Smash into a Splash, the Sixers cruised to victory with a leg in the air, reaching their target with nine wickets in hand and nine balls to spare to reach the semis and effectively end the chances of their city rivals.
The match was twice stopped by light rain but the Sixers calmly went about their business to chalk up their fourth win on the trot with opener Daniel Hughes making 41 not out from 27 balls and English import James Vince contributing an unbeaten 43.
The form team of the competition, the Sixers (16 points) have joined the Hobart Hurricanes (18) and the Melbourne Renegades (16) in the semi-finals with the Melbourne Stars (12), Thunder (11) and Adelaide Strikers (10) vying for the last available spot heading into the final week of the regular season.
"In the last four games in a row now, we've pretty much played close to the perfect games of cricket so it's nice to be playing well at this time of the season," skipper Moises Henriques said.
"But all it does is give you an opportunity to play finals cricket so we can't take anything for granted going into the finals."
So much for the notion that everyone's sick of BBL because the extended season has dragged on so long.
Last night, the Sixers drew their biggest crowd of the current campaign with 34,385 squeezing into the SCG and no-one looked bored.
The Sixers' attendances have been pretty dismal this year but there have some mitigating circumstances beyond their control.
They couldn't play at home for three weeks during the height of the holiday season because the touring Indians insisted no-one could play at the ground between the fourth Test and first ODI.
Their last game was also played the night before NSW kids went back to school but they're coming with a wet sail and if they win their last game away to the Melbourne Stars next week they could even end up hosting a semi-final.
The Thunder's batting performance summed up their season as they got off to a flyer but just weren't able to finish the job.
Shane Watson belted Ben Dwarshuis for successive sixes into the Bill O'Reilly stand as the Thunder raced to 0-19 after just two overs when the wheels fell off.
Watto went for 28 when he nicked one behind, leaving him one run short of becoming the first Thunder player to reach 1,000 BBL runs.
The Thunder's top run scorer this season Callum Ferguson departed for 26 just when he was starting to crank things up, leaving all-rounder Chris Green (34 not out) to carry the tail.
"That's the way the season's gone at times, we've played some really good cricket but we just let ourselves down a little bit," said Thunder veteran Shane Watson.
"Not horrendously but we let ourselves down a little bit at times. But you've got to be more consistent."
"Just slightly off. We couldn't get any momentum with the bat except for the first couple of overs."
The Thunder haven't had any luck in the three interrupted games they've played this season.
They lost to the Brisbane Heat on the Duckworth-Lewis system after the rain began pelting down just after they had completed five overs batting second, which is the minimum for a game to count.
A week later, they were cruising to victory against the Heat when the lights went out after just three overs, robbing them of a point.
Then last night the match was stopped twice because of rain, the second time after four overs, but cleared up in time for the Sixers to coast home.
The Sixers pin-up boy Josh Philippe had a night he'd rather forget.
The baby-faced wicketkeeper-batsman who looks just like Steve Smith dropped a skied catch from Ferguson that he sprinted 15 metres to get then let slip through his gloves.
Then he ran himself out off the very first ball of the Sixers' reply when he took off down the pitch only to see that his opening partner Hughes was at the other end waving him to go back.
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