A final overrun from Harry Conway has sent the Adelaide Strikers to the final three of KFC BBL|11 after a thrilling win over the Sydney Thunder in the MCG.
With 14 of the last six balls to set up a blockbuster clash with the Sixers at the SCG on Wednesday, the Thunder’s Ben Cutting and Alex Ross could only manage seven, as they came up six runs short of the 6-184 of the Strikers.
In a match that ebbed and flowed all night, the talking point will no doubt be the sacking of in-form Test batter Usman Khawaja.
With the match delicately balanced in pursuit of the Thunder, Khawaja moved the wicket in the seventh to Matt Short and cut a drive to short third man where Fawad Ahmed dove forward, appearing to get his fingers under a low chance.
The umpires sent the flyout up and after a few minutes of deliberation, the third umpire was unable to undo the decision on the field and controversially sent the lefthander off.
Khawaja told Fox Cricket after his resignation that he “didn’t agree, but (he) had to accept it”.
“The soft signal cost me, I’ve never been a big fan of the soft signal; when they give it on the pitch it’s hard to tip,” he said.
“It looked like a blade of grass hit the ball, but I accept the referee’s decision and I did, and I walked off the field.”
The Thunder skipper and young gunner Jason Sangha had consolidated the chase with a 41-run second-wicket partnership after Henry Thornton gave the Strikers a dream start by removing England import Alex Hales for 9.
Sangha, the Thunder’s top scorer for BBL|11, didn’t let the Khawaja’s dismissal upset him as he and Ross continued to tear down the goal.
Ross (56) then shifted momentum and took over 14 runs from 14th from Thornton to reduce the equation to 62 from 36 balls.
But just when it looked like the Thunder had come forward, Peter Siddle (2-41), the tournament’s leading wicket taker, claimed the crucial breakthrough as Sangha (61) skied the second ball of the Power Surge halfway through.
The veteran Sear removed the dangerous Daniel Sams four balls later before the bit-hitting Cutting gave the Thunder a glimmer of hope with a quickfire 16.
But it wasn’t to be, as Conway (2-33) eliminated both Ross and Cutting in the final over, with Thornton holding on to a stunning catch, even with wicketkeeper Alex Carey heading towards him.
Previously, Carey and Short got the Strikers on a flyer again when they combined to open 41 in the first four overs.
Short, who continued his stellar season 39 (28) to finish second on the tournament’s top scorers list, got a life when Sams misjudged a high ball, but the left-armer later cashed in on himself when he blinded himself. runs back with the flight to remove Carey for 23 (14).
Short had bad luck just after the halfway point when he got stuck up front by part-time leg spinner Sangha, and when Travis Head (3) fell shortly after, the Strikers seemed to wobble at 3-94.
But Ian Cockbain, the Strikers’ late season recruit of suburban club cricket in southeastern Melbourne, crushed Sangha (1-36) for 18 from the 14th over.
Cockbain (65) found an ally in Jon Wells (18) when they had 52 for the fourth wicket in quick time, using just four dot balls in a partnership that spanned 4.1 overs.
The English right-hander crunched three huge sixes, two of which landed 10 rows back, in his 38-ball knock before trying one too many and making a flyout to point to Nathan McAndrew.
Wells later fell over when Thomas Kelly and Matthew Renshaw struggled to find the line late in the innings with only two fours in the final three-and-a-half overs.
Tanveer Sangha was the standout bowler for the Thunder with 2-15 from his four overs and was the only bowler to have less than eight left.
The Strikers now travel to Sydney to face the Sixers on Wednesday night for a spot in the final against the Perth Scorchers at Marvel Stadium on Friday.