Green party: Thunder import Andre Russell celebrates dismissing Brad Haddin. Photo: Cameron Spencer
The BBL’s most talked-about drought is over after 40-year-old skipper Michael Hussey tapped back into his glory days to score an unconquered 80 and lead the Sydney Thunder to a 36-run win over derby rivals the Sixers.
The Thunder posted 158 but none of the home team’s fans among the 18,287-strong crowd at Spotless Stadium could afford to relax.The pain of the sides’ last encounter – when the Sixers scored 54 from the final three overs to win what seemed the unwinnable game last January – was still fresh in their memory.
But when last man Doug Bollinger was dismissed to seal victory for the Thunder, the supporters let out a collective roar that came straight from the gut. Could this be the year the men in electric green finally lose their tag as the BBL’s perennial underachievers?
West Indian import Andre Russell, who took 3-13, was an immediate hit. His first two overs resulted in Brad Haddin being dismissed for 13 and Nic Maddinson, the BBL’s top-ranked batsman, for seven. The spectators who cheered his enthusiastic fielding were definitely pleased he’s not a member of the Test team touring Australia.
There were doubts as to whether the Thunder’s 158 would be enough to end what has traditionally been a one-sided contest, but the men in green – who linked arms and formed a circle before the game – displayed a winning spirit.
They chipped away with the ball and Sixers batsman Jordan Silk, the architect of last January’s heartbreaking loss, was dismissed for eight by Watson when Chris Green hung onto the ball in the deep. Then Michael Lumb was dismissed lbw by Jacques Kallis for 34 and Ryan Carters was caught and bowled by Green for eight.
With the momentum firmly in the home team’s favour, Sean Abbott was caught and bowled by Shane Watson for a duck, before Trent Lawford fell to the former Test allrounder for four.
It could well prove to be the breakthrough night for the western Sydney franchise, but the hero was Hussey. This is Hussey’s farewell BBL season and he has said his mission is to teach the squad’s younger players all he could – and the veteran conducted a T20 masterclass.
He was forced to the middle when big-hitting Aiden Blizzard fell lbw to Bollinger for 12 in the second over. South African great Kallis was removed for 15 by Abbott before he had the chance to open his broad shoulders and Watson, making his debut in the lime green colours, hit a towering six before falling to Nathan Lyon’s spin for 16.
The Thunder were 3-69 and with two thirds of their much-trumpeted top three back in their bunker, it fell upon Hussey to launch the rescue mission – a task he carried out with gusto against a Sixers attack determined to pioneer the way for their team’s ninth straight victory over their crosstown rivals.
After a tough welcome – Hussey copped two missile-like deliveries from Bollinger and was almost run out by opposing skipper Maddinson – he found his feet, hammering four sixes and combining with Ben Rohrer to make a 72-run stand during which he displayed the same steely resolve that dug Australia out of similar situations during his time in the baggy green.