James Vince’s masterful 95 and magnificent catch have delivered defending champions Sydney Sixers a 27-run win over Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League final.
The Big Bash continues to quietly hum along in the background of our strange summer, and it’s looking more and more likely that at least one if not two Sydney teams will be in the final.
To say the tournament isn’t even half over yet seems insane given it started over three weeks ago, but with all teams having played five or six games, it is the case.
However, that sample size is enough to start getting an idea of which teams are likely to be shouting on the sixth of February.
The Sydney teams have, of course, been completely kicked out of their own state at this stage as the entire country shuts borders to New South Wales, but it hasn’t stopped them in the slightest.
Whether games originally scheduled in the city are able to remain or not is still yet to be seen (although the Test match going ahead can only be a good sign), but the two Sydney teams appear to be loving bubble life.
While the men in magenta, the defending champion Sydney Sixers, came into the tournament as the equal favourites alongside the Melbourne Stars, their crosstown – or is that cross bubble – rivals the Thunder were not supposed to be at the top end of town.
The Stars may be gradually folding in a heap with just two wins from their five games, but the Thunder have done the opposite, and were again out in full force last night as they ran over the Melbourne Renegades in a rain-reduced encounter on the Gold Coast.
With five wins in six games (which is five on the trot), Ollie Davies being the revelation of the tournament and their batting order on fire, they look like a team who are going to be hard to beat.
They may not have star power up and down the order, but when Alex Hales fires at the top, as he did last night on his way to 45 from just 19 balls, it provides them an X-factor like few other teams possess.
It then allows the likes of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson to spend a little bit of time building their innings before going off, with a middle order that follows including Davies, who as we all know by this stage is a very clean hitter of the ball, and noted big hitters Daniel Sams and Ben Cutting.
There may not be a truckload of international experience there, but they are quality T20 performers, backed up by a bowling attack performing well above their grade.
The men in green may have gone for almost ten an over last night, but before that, they had bowled out the Stars and Renegades cheaply, while also limiting the Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat to chase-able scores.
They will need to continue to working on their bowling and fielding if they are to go all the way, given those chase-able scores were still over 150, but they are certainly on the right track to doing something special this season.
In saying that, they need all the cards to fall into place come finals time. It might always be the way with T20 cricket, but where as a team like the stars have Glenn Maxwell to bail them out, there is no one X-factor in the Thunder team who has that sort of hitting ability in the middle order.
That means it takes a full-team effort every time they walk onto the field, and thus far, they have done it better than any other team in the competition. The only real question mark hanging over the Thunder at this stage, besides their bowling, is that they are yet to play the Sixers, or the other majorly in-form team, the Hobart Hurricanes.
The Sixers meanwhile, who will be back in action this evening with a clash against the Brisbane Heat, also haven’t lost since their opening game of the season when they fell to the Hurricanes.
The team stationed in the east of Sydney have built a phenomenal squad, however the loss of Jason Holder may set them back slightly as the season goes on.
The West Indian captain bailed the team out last start in a tense win against the struggling Renegades, but the Sixers have built talent right around him.
Josh Philippe and Jack Edwards are both developing into fine short-form cricketers at the top of the order, James Vince adds stability at number three, and the experience of Daniel Hughes and Daniel Christian adds untold positives to the men in magenta.
Where they really excel though is the bowling attack. While Holder will depart, they have then in-form Ben Dwarshuis, and more importantly Steve O’Keefe, who has been a staple of the Sixers’ Big Bash side.
He is one of the more underrated short-form spinners in the game, and while he has retired from first-class cricket, his ridiculous club form for Manly (where he is averaging 12 with the ball in New South Wales Premier Cricket) has carried over to the BBL.
What makes the Sixers more dangerous come the back end of the season will be the return of international players like Moises Henriques, Sean Abbott and more importantly Nathan Lyon.
While Lyon is more noted for his Test bowling, the dynamic spin duo were a key part of the Sixers romping to the title last year, and as long as they don’t choke from here, another finals push and as a result more cricket for the duo and their stars will be on the horizon.
There is nothing for certain in the Big Bash League, particularly this year. A run of bad form, a bit of bad luck (of which there has been plenty thanks to some rather average umpiring) or one shocking over can change the course of the competition.
But as it stands right now, the two Sydney sides are looking very good, and very likely to set up an all-Sydney final.
And on that note, happy new year Roarers! May 2021 be improved in every way imaginable.