Sydney Thunder opener Alex Hales has refuted suggestions his back-tracking fielding on the edge of circle is against the spirit of the game, as his side eliminated Hobart from the BBL.
Going into their penultimate game of the regular season last night, a Sydney Thunder win down in Hobart would have put one foot firmly inside the finals for BBL|09.
Instead, a Brisbane-like capitulation has left the Thunder in limbo – and it’s given the Heat a chance at qualifying that felt like it was rapidly disappearing, while giving Hobart a chance that just wasn’t there a week ago.
A win would’ve put Sydney on 13 points, and would have opened the gap on Brisbane out to three points. Regardless of the Perth-Adelaide result, the Thunder would still have been inside the BBL top five. And it’s always been harder to get inside the top five than to drop out.
Instead, Hobart have now replaced them in fifth place, having drawn level on 11 points and with a better net run rate.
The loss means the Thunder now must beat Perth at the Sydney Showground on Sunday night. It’s simply non-negotiable.
And, even then, if they can get to 13 points, they’ll be sweating on other results.
Namely, they need Adelaide to beat Hobart in the second game on Sunday. That result will also have implications for the Strikers, too, but the only thing the Thunder will be worried about is them winning.
But the really big issue for the Thunder is that Brisbane have two games in hand; they play the Melbourne Stars at the MCG tonight, and then the Renegades across town at the Docklands on Monday night.
Their form has become impossible to predict, and it’s even arguable whether they deserve to play finals this summer or not. But currently sitting on ten points, the equation for the Heat is equally simple:
Two wins in Melbourne, and they’ll play finals.
The Thunder will be left to rue missed opportunities and just bad luck if they do end up missing the BBL finals.
Before their defeat of the Sixers via the Duckworth-Lewis method in the second Sydney derby last weekend, the Thunder were in a winning position when the game against Adelaide in Canberra was initially suspended and then ultimately abandoned when bushfire smoke engulfed Manuka Oval.
They then lost the first Sydney Derby in a Super Over at the SCG, and lost games to Brisbane in Sydney, and also the Melbourne Renegades in Canberra by Duckworth-Lewis calculations as well.
Even just two wins in those five games and their finals participation would’ve been bedded down a week ago.
Last night in Hobart, any bad luck involved was all of their own doing.
They’d bowled reasonably well to restrict Hobart to 5/144 at the end of the 17th over, but then leaked 13, 20, and eight runs from the final three overs to find themselves chasing 186 to win. It was at least 15 runs higher than it should’ve been after 17 overs, when something in the 165-170 range looked about par.
The six overs bowled between Chris Morris and Gurinder Sandhu cost the Thunder 75 runs.
In reply, they regrouped in spectacular fashion after losing Usman Khawaja early, with Alex Hales teeing off on Clive Rose in the last over of the powerplay to the tune of 23 runs. Even when they lost Callum Ferguson not long after, Hales and Alex Ross got on with the rebuild straight away.
But after losing Hales and Morris in the 13th over, it quickly went downhill; they lost 4/10 initially and then their last 4/7 as they did their best to make D’Arcy Short look like a genuine allrounder.
The Thunder certainly had the batting to chase down 185, but instead fell 57 short.
But the pain of the loss could be much worse, because they’ve now lost control of their own destiny.
The Thunder have been more consistent this summer than Brisbane and Hobart, and even Perth, too, but that could amount to nothing now, with any two of those three just as likely to quality ahead of the Thunder as the Thunder are to qualify themselves.
Brisbane face the Stars – who have suddenly lost their last two – tonight, and then the Renegades on Monday.
Hobart play in Adelaide on Sunday night, with the Strikers eyeing off second spot.
It could mean that the Thunder and Perth on Sunday afternoon is sudden death.