Sydney Sixers 151 for 5 (Philippe 54) beat Perth Scorchers 145 for 7 (Eskinazi 66*, Abbott 3-18) by six runs
Sean Abbott produced another clutch BBL performance and Dan Christian delivered a vital single-over spell as Sydney Sixers kept themselves in touch with top spot in the BBL table by overcoming leaders Perth Scorchers.Stephen Eskinazi anchored Scorchers’ chase after they lost early wickets but there wasn’t quite the power in the closing overs to seal the game when it came down to 23 needed off the last two overs. Hayden Kerr successfully defended 16 off the last over.Sixers included both Steven Smith and Nathan Lyon for the first time this season. Smith produced some of most free-flowing batting on an evening where most found it tough.
Scorchers’ bowlers had again done an excellent job with only the combined overs from Ashton Agar and Ashton Turner coming in for significant punishment but it proved a rare occasion of the batting not quite being able to get the job done.
Abbott sets the tone
With 151 feeling underpowered, Sixers needed a good start with the ball and Abbott provided it in the powerplay. His first wicket owed much to the awareness of Kurtis Patterson on the rope as he flicked a catch back up and held the rebound to remove Cameron Bancroft. Then Abbott demolished Aaron Hardie’s stumps when the allrounder missed a big drive.
Lyon thought he had Josh Inglis lbw but it was umpire’s call on impact, however Inglis didn’t last much longer when he clubbed Kerr to mid-on to leave Scorchers 34 for 3 in the seventh.
Hobson threatens to turn game
Eskinazi and Turner rebuilt with a stand of 45 in five overs which left Scorchers with their noses in front. After Kerr had Turner taken at mid-off, Nick Hobson then looked like playing the decisive hand when he took on Lyon, depositing him 105 metres into the third tier of the Brewrongle Stand at deep midwicket.
However, Abbott struck again in his final over, a slower-ball bouncer bringing the miscue from Hobson, although Eskinazi was keeping Scorchers in touch.
Moises Henriques, Sixers’ captain, then had a big decision to make for the 19th over and called on Christian for the first time in the innings rather than using Lyon’s last over. Christian responded by having Agar taken at deep midwicket then, after warning Eskinazi for backing up, removed AJ Tye.
Smith hits his stride
After the mess of last season where Smith was prevented for playing for Sixers despite being available and willing, he was back in the tournament for the first time since early 2020. It took him six balls to get off the mark after he was tied down in the opening over from Jason Behrendorff but when he faced the left-armer again in the third over he was up a running.
A strong slash to deep point was followed by a flat pull for six over deep square leg. A second six followed in the seventh over when he slog-swept Agar to deep midwicket and he was looking in the groove for something significant. However, in the next over he drove Peter Hatzoglou powerfully towards cover when Eskinazi took a terrific catch.
It was hard work for Philippe who couldn’t find his timing throughout, although it was hardly a night for free-scoring. His fifty came off 44 balls but it never felt like he was about to cut loose and his frustration was clear when he scooped to short fine leg with two overs to go. His final strike-rate of 112.50 was by far the lowest of his 17 T20 fifties and managed just three boundaries – a rare moment of freedom coming when he deposited Hatzoglou’s penultimate ball down the ground for six. Beyond Smith and Philippe, the only other six of Sixers’ innings came off the last ball from Ben Dwarshuis. The final margin in the game was six runs.
Scorchers have fantastic bowling depth. Still without Jhye Richardson through injury, this time they left out Matt Kelly and Lance Morris to accommodate two left-arm quicks and two spinners. But it was again Tye who stood tall, even if he didn’t have wicket to show for it. He bowled his final three overs on the bounce and conceded just 13 off the bat which included the second over of the power surge where he sent down four consecutive dot balls to Jordan Silk.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo