Usman Khawaja, Shane Watson and James Vince all scored well to power Sydney Thunder to a seven-wicket victory over Melbourne Stars at the MCG
Sydney Thunder 3 for 149 (Watson 49*, Khawaja 44, Vince 40, Bowe 2-30) beat Melbourne Stars 6 for 147 (Handscomb 57, Gotch 31, Green 2-27) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sydney Thunder kept their playoffs hopes alive with a crushing win over the hapless Melbourne Stars at the MCG.
Chasing just 148 after a disciplined bowling performance, Usman Khawaja and James Vince put together a stunning opening stand to crush any faint hopes the Stars had of defending the under-par total. Khawaja dispatched the bowling to all parts of the MCG, scoring 44 from just 26 balls. Vince was overshadowed, but was equally good, making 40 off 29.
Shane Watson was dropped twice and capitalised, finishing the job with a brisk 49 not out to help his side win with 23 balls to spare. Watson had earlier picked the key wicket of Ben Dunk and was named Man of the Match.
The Stars only had two men shine on a dismal night. Peter Handscomb made 57 at the top of the order, while young left-arm wrist-spinner Liam Bowe removed Khawaja and Vince in an excellent spell.
The Thunder moved up to fifth with their fourth win, while the Stars are all but assured of finishing last. The Thunder do have one concern, with batsman Callum Ferguson straining a hamstring in the field.
Handscomb thrives at the top again
Luke Wright’s announcement that he won’t be returning to the Stars next season leaves a hole at the top of the order that needs to be filled. Dunk has signed a long-term deal, and despite a horror run of dismissals that continued against the Thunder, he seems set to remain at the top next season. For the second time this season, Handscomb opened with him, and for the second time, he made a significant contribution. Handscomb has one of the lowest boundary percentages of all T20 players, but batting in the Powerplay allowed him to strike five boundaries in his first 16 balls. The Stars had a good Powerplay, scoring 1 for 50, but they again struggled when the field spread. Handscomb scored 32 from 27 with just two boundaries in the next 8.2 overs. Kevin Pietersen, Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner combined for 18 off 23, with the spin of Fawad Ahmed and Chris Green causing most of the trouble.
Thunder strike a bowler light
Arjun Nair has been suspended from bowling for the rest of the BBL, but the Thunder retained him in their XI. Watson filled in as the fifth bowler, sending down four overs, and rotated his bowlers quite well. Previously in the tournament, Watson had used Green heavily in the Powerplay. His one over was hammered by Handscomb, but Watson, bowling more in the Powerplay, held Green back for later. Green’s last two overs, the 14th and 18th of the innings, cost just nine runs and brought the wicket of James Faulkner. It allowed Mitchell McClenaghan, who had previously struggled in the slog overs in the tournament, to bowl at two fresh batsmen in the 19th over. He conceded just eight runs. Watson gave up two boundaries in the 20th, but they restricted the Stars to just 147.
The Thunder look a completely different side with Khawaja and Vince at the top of the order. The left-right combination proved to be a nightmare for the Stars. Both men moved around their crease effectively and struck boundaries to every single part of the ground. Khawaja scooped balls over short fine, and charged down the track and flat-batted over the off side. Vince stepped to off and glanced fine, and leaned back and upper-cut over short third man. It was mesmerising batting. Khawaja hit four consecutive fours off Daniel Worrell and three in a row off John Hastings. The pair put on 85 in 8.2 overs, including 13 boundaries and a six.
Bowe breaks through
Coming into this match, Bowe had only played three T20 matches, and just one in the tournament. He bowled his first over with the Thunder 64 for no loss after six overs. He gave up just seven runs and bowled two dots. He conceded a boundary first ball of his second over, but didn’t let his head drop. Getting a bit of extra bounce, he found Khawaja’s top-edge with the batsman trying to reverse sweep, and had him caught at short third man. His wrong ‘un proved a problem for Vince, who charged at it in the 11th over to be stumped by a good five metres. Bowe bowled his four overs for 30 runs and dismissed two quality players. He did get hit for six, however, by Watson, who struggled for fluency early. Watson twice mistimed pull shots to deep square, but Jackson Coleman dropped him both times. The second drop seemed to spur Watson on. He crunched another six and three fours to end the match quickly.