Hughes’ mini-masterclass drives Sixers home

Sydney Sixers 7 for 191 (Hughes 85) beat Brisbane Heat 6 for 186 (Burns 51*, Peirson 44, Abbott 3-38) by three wickets

With just two balls to spare, a top-edged six over the wicketkeeper’s head by Sean Abbott off Ben Cutting saw Sydney Sixers home by three wickets over Brisbane Heat at the Gabba.

It did not seem that it would be so close. Sixers needed three from the final over, but Daniel Hughes, who had batted beautifully, was bowled for 85 by its first ball. A scrambled bye was followed by Abbott’s big swing – by hook or by crook they had made it.

The Heat always seemed a touch under par, with Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn – who left their fielding effort with a shoulder injury, but will most likely fly to Perth as scheduled for his team’s next game – failing to kick on. After a fast start, Sixers, led by Abbott – who now has 12 wickets, twice as many as any other bowler in the BBL – pulled it back to limit Heat to 6 for 186.

The three stages of Brisbane Heat’s innings

Having been put in (only twice have captains opted to bat first this BBL), the Heat’s innings fell into three distinct sections. They flew out of the blocks, taking 70 for 0 from the Powerplay, with the least-heralded of their powerful top three, Jimmy Peirson, outstripping McCullum with a series of mighty swipes to leg and down the ground.

The next six overs were trickier; Abbott’s introduction did for McCullum and Lynn, while Peirson and Alex Ross fell in consecutive overs. As the ball began to hold up and Abbott and co varied their pace, overs seven to 12 read 30 for 4, with four of those overs bringing just three runs each.

Fortunately for Heat, Joe Burns anchored the remaining eight overs, reaching a fine half-century in the last over of the innings. In the company of Cutting, who drove lustily and even reverse-swept, Burns struggled, but when Cutting and Jack Wildermuth fell quickly, he opened his shoulders. The last eight overs brought 86 for 2.

The comeback kid

Nick Buchanan is just 25 but his is an amazing story. This was the ponytailed paceman’s first Big Bash game since December 20, 2011. That’s 1,841 days. Or four Australian Prime Ministers. In October that year, Matthew Hayden had predicted the Queenslander, son of former national coach John, could become “an Australian Andrew Flintoff”.

But since then, he has had an operation on just about every vital joint – hip, groin, ankle – as well as stress fractures in the back and shoulder problems, too. He sought solace in alcohol, then got clean, but with the injuries lingering, he lost his Queensland contract.

Here he returned to top-level cricket. He smote the final ball of the innings for a huge six, and bowled well too, with six runs coming from each of his first two overs, the second of which also brought the vital wicket of Moises Henriques. Welcome back, sir!

Hughes carries Sixers home – almost

Hughes started the Sixers’ chase by patting back five dot balls off Samuel Badree. He ended that over by driving beautifully through the covers, the first scoring shot of a mini-masterpiece. He milked Badree, the big threat, for 21 off 14 balls, as the West Indian conceded his worst figures of the season (1 for 30) – he also seemed to be afflicted by hamstring issues in his final over – and got after the seamers as his more esteemed colleagues flattered to deceive.

Jason Roy was pinned in front, Nic Maddinson was done by a slower ball, Moises Henriques skied slogging and Sam Billings – who, like Roy, was playing his last game for the Sixers – was deceived by Mitchell Swepson’s wrong’un. Brad Haddin was in fine form as he shared 59 with Hughes, which all but sealed the win. After the wickets of Haddin and Johan Botha, Hughes fell to the first ball of the final over, playing on to Cutting, but, with Heat now believing they could pull off an outrageous win, Abbott swung hard to ensure his efforts did not go to waste.

The end is nigh

The Sixers recognised that when the bowler was coming from the Vulture Street End, the straight boundary was much shorter than from the Stanley Street End. So they cashed in on those 10 overs, hitting towards the short fence. They took 120 when the bowler was running in from the VSE, and just 71 from the SSE. The last over was bowled from the VSE – meaning Abbott’s six, over the keeper’s head, flew to the long boundary.

Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp

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