Sydney Sixers v Sydney Thunder
Saturday January 16, 7:10pm
Saturday night’s Sydney Smash takes on enormous significance with both the Thunder and Sixers still in the hunt for a top-four spot.
The Sixers’ chances of qualifying for the finals are relatively slim, however not totally inconceivable. They will need to beat the Thunder by a fairly average margin and then hope that the Melbourne Renegades suffer a heavier defeat to the Adelaide Strikers on Monday. But first they must focus on overcoming their cross-town rivals who beat them for the first time in their history in the opening fixture of the season. The Sixers are also on a run of four consecutive defeats, most recently going down to the Brisbane Heat by six runs at the SCG. Their injury-ravaged line-up will be hoping that stand-in captain Nic Maddinson will be fit to return from an injury ankle to add some much needed starch to their top-order. On a more positive note the Sixers will be buoyed by the return to form of Sean Abbott who took 3/8 against the Heat after a number of underwhelming performances earlier in the competition.
The Thunder look a more likely chance to secure their first ever finals appearance, however even if they win they may still need to rely on the Strikers beating the Renegades. Like their city-rivals, they are also on a four-game losing streak, with their last match resulting in a five-wicket home loss to the Renegades. The similarities to the Sixers don’t end there with the Thunder carrying a number of injury concerns to key players including Andre Russell, Jacques Kallis and captain Mike Hussey. They have also lost opener Usman Khawaja who has been called up to the Australian ODI squad which will likely see Aiden Blizzard retain his spot at the top of the order. However it is in the field where the Thunder desperately need to improve, having conceded runs at a whopping 8.92 an over across their four losses with all the bowlers taking their turn to leak runs at a significant rate.
The chasing side has won two out of three matches to be played at the SCG in this year’s tournament and with net run rate a factor I’d expect both teams would be looking to bat second. On a pitch that has generally suited spinners the home side will be looking to get more out of Johan Botha who has taken only one wicket at the SCG this season at an alarming economy rate of 9.38.
The Thunder are 1.62 favourites to claim their first ever win at the SCG with the hosts priced as big as 2.44. With both sides coming off four successive defeats and with a semi-final spot at stake I think the Thunder are too short here. Across the Sixers’ last four losses they have traded a strong favourites in two and were severely hampered by a mid-game injury to Moises Henriques in another. As a bowling unit they have conceded runs at the second-lowest economy rate across the competition and as mentioned their batting should be boosted by the inclusion of a refreshed Maddinson.
Admittedly the Thunder have been right in the mix in all but one of their four losses but have failed to step up in the pressure moments which has been a hallmark of prior campaigns. Their three best-performing players will be either unavailable (Khawaja) or under a fitness cloud (Russell and Hussey), while other key contributors are markedly out of form (Kallis and Gurinder Sandhu). With so much on the line I’m willing to take on the flaky Thunder and back the home side to snap their losing streak, while consigning their bitter rivals to another season without reaching the semi-final stage.