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KFC BBL|05

Kallis blow to Thunder semi-final hopes

21 January 2016

The Thunder will be without Jacques Kallis // Getty Images

Kiwi batsman Nicholls keeps spot in Thunder squad for semi-final

Sydney Thunder will be without Jacques Kallis for Thursday's KFC Big Bash League semi-final against the Adelaide Strikers, after the South Africa legend failed to overcome an injury concern.

The allrounder had travelled to Adelaide with the Thunder, but the club has now confirmed New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls will keep his spot in the 13-man squad with Kallis yet to recover from a groin injury.

Thunder captain Mike Hussey had hoped Kallis would be able to return after missing the Thunder's last game against the Sydney Sixers.

"If it's 50-50, it's a pretty big gamble but if it gets up to 80 per cent, it's definitely a gamble worth taking because obviously he offers the team so much balance and so much class and experience," Hussey said on Tuesday. 

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However the Thunder do welcome back batsman Usman Khawaja, who has scored 109 not out and 62 in his only BBL innings this season, from Australia duties. 

"I had fun while I was with the Australian camp but at the same time I really wanted to play for the Thunder," Khawaja told sydneythunder.com.au.

"I've wanted to play in a finals series for a very long time and just like everyone else in the team I’m very excited. We don’t want to be just semi-finalists, we want to win this game and then win the final too."

The opening batsman has scored 645-runs in his nineteen games for Sydney Thunder and is the only remaining member of club’s squad from BBL01. 

Watch: Khawaja bounces back with MCG ton

This season, he has posted an unbeaten century and a fifty in his two BBL appearances. 

"We have a lot of experience now compared to back then," Khawaja said of the current squad.

"We have players who have played international cricket or a lot of domestic cricket, that’s really important in such a bit tournament, with big crowds and so much at stake.

"I think that’s why we’ve played some decent cricket this year."

Thunder coach Paddy Upton believes says all the pressure is on the table-topping Adelaide Strikers for the semi-final at Adelaide Oval.

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The Strikers dropped just one of their preliminary games - to the Thunder - while the Thunder started strong with three consecutive wins but ultimately scraped into the finals with a four-four win-loss record.

Upton's Thunder only sealed a semi-final berth with a last-start victory against Sydney Sixers - a sudden-death experience which the coach believes is invaluable.

"Having a really good win in the last game, after having tripped over a few hurdles before then, we're in a good space," Upton said.

"Momentum is with us and I think the pressure is definitely on the Adelaide side.

"We have already had a must-win game in our last game, so we have got over that hurdle and we know what that feels like now.

"We have got a number of players who have been in that must-win situation before so we have a lot of experience to draw on."

Watch: Khawaja's stylish fifty

Adelaide, who also hosted a semi-final last season but lost to the Sydney Sixers, have summoned Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardena back into their side after a two-game absence because of a thigh strain, while seamer Gary Putland is fit for his first appearance of BBL|05.

Adelaide Strikers: Brad Hodge (c), Jono Dean, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Mahela Jayawardena, Hamish Kingston, Ben Laughlin, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Michael Neser, Gary Putland, Adil Rashid, Alex Ross

Sydney Thunder: Mike Hussey (c), Fawad Ahmed, Aiden Blizzard, Chris Green, Chris Hartley, Nathan McAndrew, Andrew McDonald, Usman Khawaja, Clint McKay, Henry Nicholls, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell, Shane Watson

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