Sydney Thunder 6 for 142 (Buttler 55, Ferguson 42, Agar 2-27) beat Perth Scorchers 5 for 141 (Turner 60*, Fawad 2-22) by one run
Sydney Thunder mastered the art of batting on a slow surface, but were made to sweat by a brilliant 36-ball unbeaten 60 from Ashton Turner, as they scraped through by one run in a nailbiting finish against Perth Scorchers.
On a used surface that had already hosted the WBBL's Sydney derby earlier in the day, Thunder put up 142 in a wonderfully constructed innings. Callum Ferguson provided them with the early impetus with a 30-ball 42 that offset the early advantage conceded through the wicket of Shane Watson, the captain. Jos Buttler held up his end to shield them against a middle-overs slowdown, triggered by the loss of three wickets for 13 runs, to ensure the runs kept trickling in. And Chris Green chimed in with a nine-ball 18 that gave the innings a serious lift.
With the possibility of the surface slowing down further in the second innings, little doubt lingered at the halfway stage that this would be a match-winning total. But Turner almost made everyone believe otherwise, launching a stunning late assault that almost turned the tables on the Thunder. With 20 to get off the last over, Turner took Scorchers to the brink, but fell heartbreakingly short, with four required off the last ball.
As a result, Scorchers were left languishing at seventh place, with a solitary win after five matches. Thunder's narrow escape helped them climb two positions to second.
Given the wear on the surface already before the start of the game, Shane Watson wasn't going to risk chasing, and promptly opted to bat first. Although Watson himself couldn't ride the early phase, characterised by swing both ways, sometimes of the late variety, Buttler and Ferguson validated his decision at the toss.
With Watson having toe-ended one that stopped on him a tad back to Jason Behrendorff, Ferguson and Buttler kept the damage to a minimum with a brief burst of boundaries. Ferguson especially showed how well he had sussed out the pace of the surface by waiting for the ball to come onto him and playing really late - characterised by his late cut to Andrew Tye that split backward point and third man. Buttler, in the meantime, had already brought out his innovations that were a handy on this surface if you knew your fields, scooping Behrendorff over fine leg for six, and jabbing Tye for a drive between cover and extra cover. Between overs four and six, the two pinched 30 runs. It meant that by the end of the Powerplay, Thunder were already on the ascendancy.
Slow and low
The passage after the Powerplay brought out the worst of the surface's two-paced nature. Agar gave away just four singles in his first over, and from there it was slow going for Thunder. The middle overs were replete with balls keeping low, not coming onto the batsmen, and just a general lack of pace that made run-scoring difficult.
Though Buttler aimed for the boundary-hitting shots more often, it was Ferguson who ensured the scoring rate didn't fall to unhealthy levels - he had a dot-ball percentage of 26.6 as opposed to Buttler's 39. Moreover, the ones and twos were interspersed with timely boundaries.
But after a slog sweep over midwicket off Agar, Ferguson was done in by a misbehaving short-of-a-length delivery that snuck through at shin height to clatter into the stumps. Another grubber from Agar in his next over sent Root back in similar fashion, while Sams and Jason Sangha fell trying to clear the boundary as Scorchers looked ready to apply the choke.
Jos Buttler likes it when the ball comes onto the bat. But on Wednesday, he delivered on a surface that didn't afford him that luxury. In fact, a large percentage of Buttler's boundaries - four out of five - were off slower deliveries.
Through the cluster of wickets, Buttler managed to hang in there. It wasn't as if he didn't throw his hands at the odd delivery. But the downside of the lack of pace was that mistimed hits didn't carry to fielders in the deep. Not often does Buttler stay at the crease for 50 balls and end up with a strike-rate hovering around 100. On Wednesday, he raised his fifty off the 50th ball he faced, with a reverse-pull off Coulter-Nile through third man.
It was only fitting then that a peculiar innings such as this met a peculiar end. With Jhye Richardson slowing it up and bowling full outside his off-stump, Buttler got down for a reverse sweep and ended up swinging too early. Moreover, he couldn't control the follow-through of the bat, which smashed into the stumps. Thunder were 115 for 5 with 17 deliveries to go, but Buttler had taken the innings deep enough for Thunder to launch a late surge.
Turning it on
As was to be expected, Thunder unleashed their slower bowlers early at the Scorchers. Jonathan Cook and Fawad Ahmed, the legspinners, and Chris Green, the offspinner, had each got at least an over in by the halfway mark in the chase. Thunder had also lost three wickets by then - that would become 54 for 5 seven balls later - and were struggling to find runs.
Turner then began reconstructing Scorchers' innings in the company of William Bosisto, whose 21-ball 23 was a footnote in their unbroken 87-run stand. Turner didn't go for it right away. He bided his time. But throughout, he turned the strike over - 28 off the 36 balls he faced were scoring deliveries. After 15 overs, Turner was on 15, striking at a run a ball.
From there, he zoomed away, pillaging 45 runs off his next 21 balls. A four and a six off Green to close out the 18th over slashed the equation down to 28 off 12. But Turner saved his best for the last, with 20 needed off the final over, bowled by Sams. Off the first four balls of that over, Turner dug a yorker out wide of long-on for a brace, bisected deep midwicket and long-on for a four, toe-ended another couple to long-off, and swiped a full toss past deep square leg for four more. Sams helped Turner's cause, withering under pressure and sending down two wides in the last over. With six needed off two, Turner mistimed a loft over extra cover, getting only two for it, before Sams held his nerve to smartly deliver a slower ball, asking Turner to use his strength, which he couldn't to full effect.