Sydney Thunder have kept their hopes of a maiden Big Bash League finals appearance alive with an emphatic 46-run win over the Sydney Sixers at the SCG on Saturday.
While the western Sydney franchise have a nervous wait on their hands, they made a bold statement about their title aspirations after posting a mammoth 5-202, the biggest total of the tournament.
Despite missing marquee men Usman Khawaja and Jacques Kallis, the Thunder got off to a flyer with veterans Mike Hussey (41 off 29) and Shane Watson (66 off 41) turning back the clock while big-hitter Andre Russell (46 off 20) went on a late rampage in front of a record crowd of 38,456 fans.
For a while it looked like the Sixers, led by skipper Nic Maddinson, might spoil the party – reaching 100 from their first nine overs – before being bowled out for 156.
Maddinson powered the ball to all corners of the ground, clubbing five sixes on his way to 70 off 40 balls.
He was hitting them so hard he broke his bat, the willow splitting in the middle and sent batting partner Jordan Silk ducking for cover at the non-striker’s end.
The change of bats seemed to disrupt his rhythm and shortly after his he was caught at deep mid-wicket off Fawad Ahmed.
Ahmed (3-39), Chris Green (3-27) and Clint McKay (3-16) made strong contributions to bowl out the Sixers from 17.3 overs.
The win has jumped the Thunder into third spot on the BBL ladder but Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades both have a game to play.
If the Stars lose to Perth Scorchers on Saturday night the Thunder are in, if not they have to hope the Adelaide Strikers beat the Renegades on Monday night.
The Thunder flew out of the blocks but the loss of Watson and Henry Nicholls pegged them back, only for Hussey and Russell to hit the accelerator in the final overs.
Hussey, playing his last game at the SCG, was given a standing ovation by the big crowd after being clean bowled by Bollinger, who had a forgettable night, going for 1-40 off three overs.
Russell was particularly ruthless, hitting seven boundaries including four sixes, before he was dismissed by a memorable bit of play.
After hitting Sean Abbott down the ground, Johan Botha grasped the ball as he tip-toed along the rope, popping it up to Jordan Silk who accepted the catch.