A captain’s knock from Shane Watson has fired the Sydney Thunder to a thrilling last-ball win over the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League season opener.
After earlier taking two wickets, spinner Arjun Nair was the surprise star, hitting two fours off Sean Abbott’s final over as well as taking a single off the last ball to claim a memorable five-wicket win in front of 21,589 at Spotless Stadium.
The game swung wildly in the final overs but Watson’s swashbuckling 77 off 46 balls was the eventual difference-maker as the Thunder reached their target of 150 with the final ball.
The Sixers may have uncovered the surprise packet of the tournament in debutant allrounder Daniel Sams however his 4-14 wasn’t enough to get the visitors over the line in the Sydney derby.
After the Sixers managed a modest 149-9 off their 20 overs, Sams had the Thunder rattled at 1-1 in the first over after removing Englishman Jos Buttler.
From there, Watson and Kurtis Patterson (29 off 37) mounted a comeback mission, putting on a 75-run partnership.
Watson came into the tournament in form after smashing an unbeaten 114, which included 16 sixes in club cricket just over a week ago, and looked to have his eye in from the outset.
The 36-year-old cleared the fence six times, becoming just the sixth players in history – behind Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, David Warner, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith – to bring up 300 career T20 sixes.
Going into the 17th over, the Thunder needed 42 off 24 balls and Watson sent Abbott to the fence on three consecutive balls to swing back momentum.
However, just when the Thunder looked back in control, Sam dismissed Ryan Gibson and Watson with successive deliveries to set up a grandstand finish.
Arjun and Aiden Blizzard displayed nerves of steel to get the required 15 off the last over and claim bragging rights over their Sydney rivals.
“For us to be able to chase those runs down the way we did, for Arjun Nair and Aiden Blizzard to hold their nerve like that, it’s an awesome start,” Watson said.
“To start the season off with a close win, it’s a great start and will give us a lot of confidence”
Sams warmed up for the tournament with a stint with Canterbury in the New Zealand domestic competition but he was punted from the side after controversial Englishman Ben Stokes arrived for a short stint.
Sams said he was pleased to have got his first BBL outing but was finding it hard to celebrate after his side fellow agonisingly short.
“It was unreal, I’ve never played in front of a crowd like this before,” Sams said.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the win but it’s a really good experience.”