Sydney Thunder 9 for 123 (Ross 28, Sandhu 20*, Coulter-Nile 3-19) beat Melbourne Stars 8 for 122 (Larkin 25, Farooqi 2-20, Sams 2-21) by one wicket
But they clawed back through the late heroics of Sandhu, who hit a six when Thunder needed seven off the last three balls. They achieved the tense victory off the final delivery through a bye in a major relief for Thunder.
Amazing last over kick-starts new season
There is a lot riding on this new BBL season after a couple of tough Covid-19 affected years. But tournament organisers couldn’t have scripted a better opening first night, with this nerve-jangling match capped by an incredible last over.
Needing eight runs for victory, Stars appeared in the box seat after substitute fielder Brody Couch took a spectacular high-flying catch at long-off in what might just be the catch of the summer across formats. It was the second gem from Couch, who had earlier juggled a catch low to the ground, reviving memories of Mark Taylor’s classic snare against West Indies at the SCG.
Stars’ pace attack had been pinpointed as their weak point during a couple of indifferent seasons, and Trent Boult‘s signing – albeit for half a season – was hoped to make a major difference.
The injury-prone Coulter-Nile had only played 13 BBL games over the past two seasons, but if he can stay fit, Stars’ chances of ending their title drought improve immensely.
Heading into the match, there was uncertainty over the availability of Stars’ batters Joe Burns and Marcus Stoinis after they contracted Covid-19. Both felt well enough to play, although they travelled to the ground separately from their team-mates and sat in a different dressing room.
Burns came to the crease after the early wicket of Clarke, but in the sixth over, suffered a hamstring injury while running between the wickets. Even though clearly hampered and looking disconsolate, a hobbling Burns decided to stay at the crease, and tried to stand and deliver.
But it didn’t work, with Burns struggling to connect. He laboured between the wickets with anything other than singles out of the question. After three fruitless overs, Burns finally decided to retire hurt, with Stars desperately needing to lift the tempo through incoming batter Stoinis. But Stoinis, held back from his customary opener’s role, fell first ball, and Stars never recovered.
Burns is expected to miss a month, according to coach David Hussey, while Stoinis was unable to take the field in Thunder’s innings after feeling unwell.
Farooqi’s fast and furious debut
In a bid for a much-needed spark, Stars took the two-over Power Surge – an innovation the tournament has stuck with this season – in the 13th over.
The double strike highlighted an impressive BBL debut for Farooqi, who bowled consistently around 140kph, laced with several menacing full-pitched deliveries.