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.
Gun wicketkeeper Josh Philippe may have stolen all the limelight throughout the Big Bash League for the Sydney Sixers as he knocks on the door of international selection, but it’s their contingent of experienced stars who will come to the fore during the finals.
The men in magenta are one of the more successful clubs in the long-term and it’s little surprise to see the consistent force from eastern Sydney finish on top of the table once again.
They now have the advantage of hosting the BBL’s other long-term success story, the Perth Scorchers, with a trip directly to the grand final on the line.
Rounding out the regular season last night at the end of a monster day of cricket, the Sixers only needed a bonus point to take top spot against the Melbourne Stars, but instead sent the men in green to a loss which keeps them out of the finals.
The Sixers realistically didn’t need to win the game after they picked up the extra point, but the professionalism and experience of Moises Henriques and Daniel Christian meant they could get the job done in excellent fashion, winning on the second-last ball, while Carlos Brathwaite has added plenty with both bat and ball.
That, of course, followed the earlier bowling performance of Steve O’Keefe (0-21 off four) and Sean Abbott (2-28 off four) which helped limit the Stars to a manageable chase of 178 on a flat MCG wicket.
While that performance in itself needs to be talked about – as the star-studded Melbourne side fell apart again with Marcus Stoinis, Seb Gotch and Nick Larkin unable to get them off to any sort of start before Billy Stanlake, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa (all three could tour New Zealand next month) all struggled to put the strangle on the Sixers – the experience of the middle order right across the season has moulded the Sixers into the team they are.
Nine wins in 14 games may not seem like it, but apart from conceding 232 against the Sydney Thunder and being rolled for 97 by the Scorchers in the first meeting between the sides (before bouncing back less than a week later), the Sixers haven’t had a bad performance.
Just one poor showing with the bat and one with the ball with games coming thick and fast, while also spending a fair chunk of it in a bubble on the road, is a testament to just how much experience – and winning experience at that – sits in the squad.
The amount of experience in the middle order allows players like Philippe and Daniel Hughes to play with flamboyance, attempting to keep the runs ticking and get the side off to a good start.
The answer at the top of the order with James Vince may still not be 100 per cent clear, but the formula is working more often than it isn’t, and whenever the Sixers are able to build a platform for the experienced middle order, it has tended to be absolute carnage for their opposition.
The biggest advantage from Christian, Henriques and Brathwaite is the strike rates with which they are able to tick things over at, and yet, if there is a collapse, the way in which all three are able to rotate strike and not get bogged down in an innings rebuild.
Christian in particular has a strike rate of 186 for his 252 runs, which shows just how well he has been able to torment opposition bowling attacks at the back-end of the innings. Neither Brathwaite nor Henriques are quite as high, but both have executed excellently.
On the bowling front, and there is no difference. O’Keefe might be retired from first-class cricket, but he has translated his excellent form for Manly in New South Wales Premier Cricket to the Big Bash.
He may only have 14 wickets, which is well behind the competition leaders, but his economy of 7.17 is excellent for a spinner, while he is constantly able to put the pressure on through dot balls, which so often translates into wickets up the other end.
The rest of the bowling attack may not be quite as experienced as O’Keefe or the big West Indian Brathwaite, but Ben Dwarshuis has led the way throughout the season on his way to 19 wickets, even if they have come expensively.
As in the batting though, the Sixers have players who have been there and done that, like Dwarshuis and Jake Ball, who are able to bowl knowing their experienced teammates can step up when the job is failed originally.
It allows them to play with confidence, take risks and improve in a team where the knowledge base is enormous.
It’s difficult to see the Sixers not finding a way past the Scorchers on Friday night. Yes, their regular season series was tied at one apiece, but the Sydneysiders got the better of the Scorchers last time out and are incredibly strong on paper.
We could still get an all-Sydney final, but a rematch of Friday in the decider would be the most logical way for this season to conclude.
T20 cricket is a crazy beast at the best of times, but the Sixers have a mountain of winning experience at both domestic and international level, which makes them as close to unbeatable as you can get.