Sydney Thunder have completed their fairytale rise from Big Bash League also-rans to champions with a tense three-wicket win against Melbourne Stars in the final at the MCG.
Competing in their first BBL final after finishing last on three occasions, Thunder rode Usman Khawaja’s coat tails – he made 70 off 40 balls – to chase down Stars’ total of 9-176 with three balls to spare in front of 47,672 fans on in Sunday night.
Ben Rohrer landed the final blow of an epic encounter, hitting the winning runs with a straight six off the third ball of Daniel Worrall’s last over.
Stars kept themselves in the contest with late wickets but the damage was done earlier when Khawaja and Jacques Kallis (28 runs off 27 balls) laid the foundation with an 86-run opening partnership.
With two unbeaten centuries from three BBL innings going into the final, Khawaja was always the dangerman in the Thunder line-up and he didn’t disappoint.
He survived a huge shout for LBW on 37 that replays showed had a lot of merit, but his classy innings underlined his stellar run of form.
The highly-entertaining, see-sawing affair was a fitting send-off for retiring Thunder skipper Mike Hussey in his last game on Australian soil.
Hussey strode to the crease to warm applause from the crowd and a guard of honour from Stars players and departed for 18 runs to a rapturous send-off from the appreciative crowd.
Earlier, a dashing half-century from Kevin Pietersen was the cornerstone of Stars’ innings after they were sent in to bat.
Pietersen was at his imperious best, however, smashing the Thunder attack – in particular spinner Fawad Ahmed – to all parts of the MCG on his way to 74 from 39 balls.
But for Stars, the agonising wait for BBL success continues.
Team Green have now made four semi-finals and one final in the first five editions of the Big Bash without lifting the trophy.