BBL 05 Semi-Final 1: Sydney Thunder trump Adelaide Strikers to reach the final
Usman Khawaja’s dream summer continued as he threaded the Adelaide Strikers’ bowling attack to complete his second century of the BBL 05 and lead the Syndey Thunder to victory by 8 wickets. With this win, they have qualified for the final of the tournament and would face either Perth Scorchers or the Melbourne Stars- who would meet on January 22 in the second semi-final- on Sunday.
A star-studded Strikers line-up failed to fire when it mattered the most, after winning the toss and batting first at the Adelaide Oval, as they could only manage a paltry total of 159/7 with Alex Ross being the top scorer who made 47 runs. Mahela Jayawardena, Travis Head and Brad Hodge- the core of the Strikers’ batting line-up- were dismissed inside the first half of their innings, as Clint McKay and Shane Watson never allowed the home side to gain any sort of momentum.
Jayawardena was the first one to go when he nicked a Watson delivery to the wicket-keeper Chris Hartley in the second over. Head, the second-highest run scorer in the BBL this season, hit some lusty blows, but couldn’t manage to carry on as he was caught at mid-off by Ben Rohrer off McKay on 23.
Hodge, perhaps one of the most experienced T20 campaigners around the globe wasn’t anywhere close to his best either as he could strike only 14 runs off 19 balls before being bowled by Chris Green in the 10th over thereby reducing the Strikers to 64/4.
Ross steadied the ship thereafter and combined with Jake Lehmann and Michael Neser for brief yet vital partnerships before Adil Rashid’s two fours and a six off the last three balls of the innings helped his side cross the 150 mark and reach 159 in their 20 overs.
The Thunder’s innings contained everything that the Strikers’ didn’t as Usman Khawaja- who has had a summer to remember- stepped up the tempo right from the onset and gave the Thunders a thundering start. When Shane Watson was dismissed for 7 in the 5th over, the score was 57 runs and Khawaja had made 48 out of those.
Watson’s dismissal brought the legendary Michael Hussey to the crease as the Oval rose to give the man playing his last BBL a befitting reception. The veteran could only make 11 runs before he was dismissed in the 9th over, but the lion’s share of the work was already done by Khawaja, who before this game averaged 255 this season and was the 4th highest run-scorer of the tournament despite playing just 2 matches.
Khawaja completed his hundred of just 56 balls in the 17th over with 13 fours and 3 sixes, and with some strong support by Henry Nicholls at the other end- who made 35- guided the side home comfortably with more than two overs to spare.
It was a monumental victory in many aspects as the Sydney Thunder qualified for the BBL final for the first time in their history.
Brief Scores: Syndey Thunder 160/2 (Khawaja 104*, Rashid 1/28) beat Adelaide Strikers (toss) 159/7 (Ross 47, McKay 3/44) by 8 wickets.