In the razzmatazz era of franchise-based T20 cricket, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is widely acknowledged as the front-runner among the various leagues. However, in terms of quality of cricket, Australia's Big Bash League (BBL) is also right at the top. The tournament, which began in December 2011, has rapidly grown to become one of the biggest events in modern-day sporting circuit.
In this particular segment, let us take a close look at five of the best batting performances across all BBL seasons thus far. Suffice to say, only knocks resulting in victories are taken into consideration. While higher priority is given to those efforts in knockout matches, the quality of opposition bowlers as well as relative strengths of the teams are also factored into account in order to enumerate the top five knocks in the league's history.
#5 Chris Gayle - 100* (Sydney Thunder vs Adelaide Strikers, 2011)
Chris Gayle may currently be ostracized from BBL due to his infamous interview with a female reporter in 2016. However, during the early days of the tournament, the Caribbean opener was one of the biggest draw-cards among overseas players. Long before his eventful stint with Melbourne Renegades, the flamboyant left-hander began his BBL tryst with Sydney Thunder. During the inaugural edition, he gave a performance befitting his reputation as T20 cricket's greatest entertainer.
Chasing 156 for victory, Gayle made mincemeat of Adelaide Strikers by slamming a 54-ball century. Up against a seasoned T20 professional in Alfonso Thomas as well as a rapid Kane Richardson, the Jamaican spearheaded Sydney Thunder's run-chase with an unbeaten ton. He hammered as many as 11 sixes and treated the packed arena to a resplendent display of effortless hitting.
#4 Ben Dunk - 96 (Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Thunder, 2014)
In the years to come, Sydney Thunder would not want to remember the 2012/13 and 2013/14 BBL seasons. From 16 matches in the two editions, they lost a whopping 15 games. During the 2013/14 season, Thunder were consigned to their 19th successive defeat by a masterful knock from Ben Dunk. On a dicey track showing adequate assistance for both seam and spin, the Hobart Hurricanes opener was a class apart.
Even as the other batsmen struggled to score freely on the sluggish surface, Dunk came up with a remarkable 54-ball 96 to single-handedly propel the Hurricanes to 167. He smashed eight boundaries and cleared the fence on five occasions. Impressive spells from Cameron Boyce, Shoaib Malik and Ben Laughlin routed Thunder for just 94. In a game when the next best score was 28, Dunk's resilient effort stood out for its quality.
#3 Chris Lynn - 81 (Brisbane Heat vs Hobart Hurricanes, 2015)
With his nonchalant ability to send the ball sailing into the stands, Chris Lynn has become a household name in Australia. The right-hander's penchant for creating mayhem has even spawned a moniker titled 'Lynnsanity'. Even as his capacity to hit sixes has endeared him to Brisbane Heat faithfuls, his best knock may just be one which saw him carve a tremendous strike-rate of 231.42 with just three sixes.
During the 2014/15 BBL season, Lynn imposed himself on Hobart Hurricanes by bludgeoning the ball through well-aimed gaps in intelligently set fields. He reeled off as many as 12 fours to leave Hobart skipper Tim Paine in utter disbelief. Ironically, it took a full toss to get rid of someone who was in the zone. Lynn's 35-ball 81 helped Brisbane amass 198 runs from their quota of 20 overs. Eventually, the total proved to be sufficient by 18 runs.
#2 Usman Khawaja - 104* (Sydney Thunder vs Adelaide Strikers, 2016)
In the present-day Australian setup, there are not many better at timing the ball than Usman Khawaja. When he is in the groove, the southpaw can guarantee a soothing exhibition of stroke-play regardless of the format. The first semifinal of the 2015/16 BBL season saw one such virtuoso performance from the elegant batsman. When Adelaide Strikers scrambled to a fighting total of 159, they would have expected scoreboard pressure to take effect.
However, Khawaja had other ideas. He got off to a fiery start and quickly deflated Adelaide's hopes of defending the total. Even as the senior stars such as Shane Watson and Michael Hussey deserted him, the left-hander anchored the run-chase in a serene manner. His unbeaten 59-ball 104 enabled Sydney Thunder to saunter to the final. In the summit clash, Khawaja would once again rise to the occasion and deliver a match-winning effort.
#1 Craig Simmons - 112 (Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers, 2014)
Playing for a place in the final of the 2013/14 BBL season, Perth Scorchers entered SCG to square off against Sydney Sixers. When they were inserted to bat on a markedly quick surface, the Scorchers had a massive challenge to overcome. Their opponents boasted of the likes of Brett Lee, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Admittedly, the latter duo were not as established at that point in time.
While the three-pronged pace attack seemingly presented an edge to the Sixers, domestic veteran Craig Simmons quelled their menace by producing a sublime century. He belted 11 towering sixes and ensured that his team registered 193 in the all-important semifinal clash. In a rain-curtailed run-chase, Sydney fell short by five runs. The Scorchers would go on to defeat Hobart Hurricances in the final and bring the BBL crown to Western Australia for the first time. Simmons' 58-ball 112 remains the joint-third highest individual score in the tournament's history thus far.