‘Bit of niggle out there’ spices up Sixers’ win in Sydney Smash, Elgar coy over form slump

Sean Abbott has suggested there could be more niggle in the rematch between Sydney’s two BBL teams, after the feisty encounter between the Sixers and Thunder.

The Sixers’ seven-wicket win at Sydney Showground Stadium on Sunday lifted the men in magenta to first above Perth, and dropped their defeated local rivals one spot to fourth.

The Thunder and Sixers will clash in their second Sydney Smash of the season on Saturday week at the SCG.

Sixers paceman Abbott, who was player of the match with a magnificent effort of 3-9 from his four overs, said there had been some niggle between the two teams in front of a crowd of almost 21,000.

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He suggested some of it had to do with the Sixers not starting the final over of the Thunder innings in time and therefore losing one fielder outside the circle.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08: Sean Abbott of the Sixers appeals during the Men's Big Bash League match between the Sydney Thunder and the Sydney Sixers at Sydney Showground Stadium, on January 08, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Sean Abbott. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

“Maybe some of their boys trying to make sure our innings runs a bit late so we’re bowling with four (outside the circle) there at the end, and one or two other things,” Abbott told Fox Cricket.

“There was a bit of niggle out there tonight too, so it shapes up for an interesting game back home at the SCG for round number two against them.

“We’ll just see how the next game goes. I’m sure there will be a bit more.”

Both Sydney teams have a home game next against second-placed Perth Scorchers, who are just one point behind the Sixers with two games in hand.

The Sixers and Thunder will each look different for their games against the Scorchers, after losing key players to the ILT20 and regaining some stars from the Australian Test team.

The Sixers’ James Vince and Chris Jordan and Thunder’s Alex Hales all played their final BBL match of the season last night.

Their departures will be offset by the return of Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon for the Sixers and David Warner’s long awaited return to the Thunder.

Abbott acknowledged the importance of the Sixers getting Smith and Lyon back, but said they would miss their departing English imports.

“I think ‘Moey’ (Sixers captain Moises Henriques) mentioned Smithy is an absolute pest in the group chat, so whilst he’s not here physically he’s certainly there on the group chat helping us along,” Abbott said.

“But we’re missing two class players in CJ (Jordan) and Vincey, not just for what they bring on the park, they’ve obviously performed quite well.”

The Sixers slumped to 3-25 after four overs, but middle-order linchpins Silk and Henriques took control with an unbroken fourth wicket stand of 109 off 75 balls.

Silk (59 off 42) and Henriques (53 off 38) displayed their experience, working the ball into gaps for singles and hitting the occasional boundary when the Thunder bowlers erred. It was Silk’s first BBL 50 of the season and Henriques’ biggest score in this season’s campaign.

The Thunder crashed to 3-12 with three lbw decisions inside the first three overs, as Alex Hales fell for a golden duck.

A fourth-wicket stand of 64 between Alex Ross (34 off 34) and Sam Whiteman (42 off 34) in his first BBL game of the season, revived the Thunder innings.

The Sixers regained the initiative by taking 3-17 but some lusty late innings hitting from Ben Cutting (26 not out from 15 balls) boosted Thunder’s total.

Abbott (3-9 off four overs) bowled 17 dot balls and boosted his haul for the season to 16, joint-second highest along with the Scorchers AJ Tye and the Strikers’ Henry Thornton.

“There was a bit of a green tinge on the wicket,” Abbott said. “When your captain gives you the hard ball you’ve got to go out there and there’s no more incentive to go out there and perform well and give your all and set the tone, so that was nice tonight.”

The Thunder needed quick wickets and, like the Sixers, struck three times In the power play, with captain and spinner Chris Green (2-29 off four) and pacemen Brendan Doggett (1-23 off four) doing the damage.

Silk and Henriques controlled the game from that point. “These blokes turn zeros into ones, and twos into threes and seem to find every gap in those pockets that are quite large here,” Abbott said of Silk and Henriques.

Elgar coy over form slump

South African skipper Dean Elgar was guarded about his terrible returns of 56 runs at a woeful 9.33 in the 2-0 series loss to Australia after the third Test was drawn in Sydney.

The veteran opener was out four times gloving a short ball down leg side.

“I can accept once, maybe twice, but the third time is something that highly irritates me,” Elgar said. “It’s something different for me. Generally you have a way of going out and bowlers target that. This is obviously something new and 10 years into a Test career, it’s foreign territory for me.

“It’s something to potentially reflect on and you can either say it’s shit luck or not. I’m going to have an open mind around it and have a look.”

He claimed there were “other aspects” behind his slump but refused to divulge what they were.

“You guys don’t have to know about,” he said. “It’s just purely cricket.”

Dean Elgar of South Africa.

Dean Elgar of South Africa. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Selection dilemma for Babar before NZ ODIs

Pakistan captain Babar Azam is not sure whether newly appointed deputy Shan Masood will walk into the playing XI for the one-day international series against New Zealand.

“We can’t talk about any individual at the moment, whether he’s vice-captain or X, Y, Z,” Babar said on Sunday on the eve of the opening match. “We will try to field our best playing XI, and try to win the series.”

The 33-year-old left-handed batter Masood was made vice-captain in place of Mohammad Rizwan, the only wicketkeeper in the 16-man squad for the three ODIs. But Masood hasn’t played an ODI since 2019 when all five of his matches were against Australia in the United Arab Emirates. He scored 111 runs at an average of 22.20.

The interim selection committee, headed by Shahid Afridi, has also recalled Haris Sohail, another left-handed batter. He has 1685 runs in 42 ODIs, but hasn’t featured since October 2020 against Zimbabwe. Two uncapped middle-order batsmen, Tayyab Tahir and Kamran Ghulam, were picked after prolific scoring on the domestic circuit.

“We know we can carry our momentum in white-ball cricket because we are back to our strength in bowling,” Babar said.

Haris Rauf has recovered from a quadricep injury picked up during his debut test against England last month to join other fast bowlers Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim, Shahnawaz Dahani and Mohammad Hasnain in the squad.

The ODI on Monday — all three are in Karachi — will be the first between Pakistan and New Zealand since the 2019 World Cup in England.

Kane Williamson, who stepped down from the New Zealand Test captaincy before the tour to Pakistan, will return to lead the ODI side. Then he’ll pass the captaincy to Tom Latham for the ODI series in India.

Fast bowler Adam Milne was withdrawn from the series due to concerns about his preparation, and Blair Tickner, who was part of New Zealand’s Test squad, has been retained. New Zealand have flown in three white-ball specialists — opening batter Finn Allen, fast bowler Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.

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