O'Keefe returns to bag four as Sydney smash Thunder
Sydney Sixers thump their crosstown rivals in front of a crowd of 20,306 at the SCG to move into second spot on the KFC BBL ladder
15 January 2022, 09:36 PM AEST
An inspired spell from veteran spinner Steve O'Keefe and a brutal batting display has put the Sydney Sixers in the box seat to claim second spot at the end of the KFC BBL|11 season.
Facing an imposing chase of 198 in the second Sydney Smash of the season, the Sydney Thunder crumbled under the pressure of their cross-town rivals at the SCG, who dominated the match after the first four overs.
The win puts them into second, level on points with the Thunder but the Sixers have game in hand. Unless they lose both of their remaining fixtures against the Strikers and Heat, they look set to finish in the top two and earn the right to face the Scorchers for a spot in the BBL|11 decider.
It was the Sixers batters who starred after a slow start, with Josh Philippe and Daniel Hughes registering half centuries before skipper Moises Henriques finished the innings with a flurry of boundaries.
Thunder captain Chris Green elected to bowl first on Saturday night and his bowlers were immediately on top, holding the Sixers to 1-8 in the Powerplay, which was the lowest score since it became four overs at the start of last season.
But Philippe was still there, and he lifted the rate with a ramp over the wicketkeeper's head for four as the next over from Gurinder Sandhu (1-46) went for 10.
Philippe and Hughes proceeded to put on 45 runs from the four overs following the Powerplay, with Tanveer Sangha, Green and Nathan McAndrew (2-30) copping the brunt of the increased aggression.
It was a welcome return to form for Philippe ahead of the finals after three ducks in his previous four innings. After a slow start, he finished with a rapid 35-ball 57.
Hughes, who has scored the most runs in the history of the Sydney Smash, also found the boundary regularly after scoring just two from 12 balls in the Powerplay.
The left-hander finished with 66 from 48 to take his tally to 435 in the local derby, 41 ahead of Henriques on 394.
The Thunder bowlers seemed to lose their cool from then on, with Pakistani quick Mohammad Hasnain involved in several heated exchanges with Henriques.
Daniel Sams also gifted Hughes a free hit, which he dispatched for six over square leg, by bowling two bouncers above the shoulder in an over.
Henriques continued in the same vein as Philippe and Hughes with an unbeaten 47 from 27 balls, and when Sean Abbott smoked the first ball he faced and last ball of the innings over the rope, the Sixers had posted a huge total of 5-197.
From the end of the Powerplay, the Sixers went at a run rate of 11.81 for the remaining 16 overs as Sandhu, Sams, Green and McAndrew all conceded 10 runs or more an over.
The Thunder started brightly with Alex Hales (23) and Jason Sangha (22) taking the score to 42 before O'Keefe rammed home the Sixers' advantage.
The wily 37-year-old left-armer, who had missed the previous two games with a hand injury, removed Hales and Alex Ross in his first over and then Sams and Oliver Davies in his third to reduce the Thunder to 5-61.
O'Keefe finished with 4-18 from his four overs, while Ben Dwarshuis also chipped in with two wickets to move to 99 in his BBL career.
Green restored some respectability to the scorecard with 50 from 31 balls but in the end, his side fell 60 runs short.
The Thunder, who are guaranteed of a top three finish, round out their regular season against the Renegades at the MCG on Wednesday.
The Sixers, who are also guaranteed of a top three finish, play the Strikers on Monday and the Heat on Wednesday.