Sydney Thunder beat Melbourne Stars by one wicket in a thrilling final at the end of a low-scoring Big Bash League opener.
Set 123 to win, Thunder needed eight from last with three wickets in hand, but Beau Webster took two wickets in consecutive balls, including substitute outfielder Brody Couch’s superb one-handed catch at long range to take out Chris Green .
Gurinder Sandhu then smashed the fourth ball of the over-six to even the scores, leaving Thunder needing a second ball.
A point ball followed and Sandhu played in and missed the final delivery, only for England wicketkeeper Joe Clarke to fail to rally and hand Thunder a bye to clinch victory in a remarkable curtain-raiser at the Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
The bowlers were ahead throughout a two-speed lane and the Stars were soon under pressure after being asked to strike first as they lost the first two games in five overs.
Joe Burns and Marcus Stoinis were cleared to play despite both testing positive for Covid-19 before the match, but the former was forced to withdraw injured after appearing to pull his hamstring, while the latter was sent off for a golden duck.
After rushing to 122-8, the Stars got off to a perfect start with the ball when new away signing Trent Boult retired Matthew Gilkes and Rilee Rossouw for ducks on his first over.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals throughout the innings, including three against Nathan Coulter-Nile, but despite falling to 57-5 and then 89-7, the Thunder came home.
Late drama gives Big Bash an early boost
In a year when the Big Bash needs to make its mark, amid fresh competition from rival Twenty20 franchise competitions in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, for a long time it looked like the 12th edition of the tournament would begin with a groan.
The usual crash, bang, wallop associated with T20 cricket was nowhere to be found – the stars hit just eight bounds in their innings.
Even the wickets weren’t particularly spectacular, with a lack of wheel stumps or flying holds.
The Thunder’s innings were mostly similar, but all of that will be forgotten thanks to an exhilarating conclusion that demonstrated the thrilling payoff that low-scoring encounters can deliver.
Flying plugs? Stumps out of the ground? The ball sailing the rope?
The final over had it all – Couch running and leaping to take a magnificent hold, Webster playing Fazalhaq Farooqi and Sandhu’s crucial shot for six – plus a final final.
We had to wait, but the Big Bash is back in force.