Sixers remain title favourites alongside the unbeaten Perth Scorchers
Sydney Sixers 6 for 150 (Silk 36, Henriques 28, Rashid 3-20 ) beat Adelaide Strikers 8 for 147 (Kelly 41, Wells 32, Christian 3-8, Abbott 3-24 ) by four wickets
The 29-year-old, who recently became a father, claimed three wickets to help restrict Strikers to a modest 8 for 147. Abbott re-wrote the record books with his career mark of 112 BBL wickets taking him past Ben Laughlin.
Sixers survived a big fright in the chase with the irresistible Rashid turning the match on its head in the 17th over before Abbott capped his memorable night with a late flurry as the home team prevailed in the final over. Sixers (4-1) remain title favourites, alongside unbeaten Perth Scorchers, while Strikers (1-3) fell short after a ten-day breather.
It was a new-look Sixers attack with Tom Curran ruled out of the remainder of the BBL while frontline spinner Steve O’Keefe was on the sidelines with a calf strain. Their bowling depth had already been tested without Ben Manenti, who has a season-ending neck injury, and Jackson Bird.
But they welcomed back Abbott, whose daughter Ella was born on December 13, and he made an impact immediately with the key wickets of Matt Short and Jake Weatherald.
Abbott bowled with aplomb in the four-over powerplay to cover the absence of O’Keefe, who is normally entrusted early. He returned at the death and claimed Thomas Kelly with the last ball of the innings to set a new BBL record.
In his final match of the BBL season, Chris Jordan bowled throughout the middle and latter overs but was wicketless.
Sixers stutter but Abbott shines again
Sixers were strong favourites to chase down a modest total but they were made to work. Josh Philippe has been the standout batter of the BBL, but he looked uncharacteristically out of sync and fell for 23 in the eighth over as the Sixers struggled against menacing spin tandem Rashid and Fawad Ahmed.
With the top-order struggling, Jordan Silk was able to get a prolonged chance having barely been needed thus far this season. The match was in the balance at the 15th over before Silk and Moises Henriques smashed 24 runs in the power surge overs.
It flipped again when Rashid picked up wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 17th over to cap a brilliant performance. But with Rashid done for the night, Silk made his move until he holed out in the 19th over in a late twist.
But Abbott’s stellar match continued with an invaluable 10-ball 19 not out and Hayden Kerr finished it off with a six as the home team prevailed with four balls to spare.
Rashid and Fawad provide hope for Strikers
After Strikers’ seamers couldn’t strike in the powerplay, Rashid and Fawad had Sixers’ star-studded batting line-up in a tangle.
James Vince, in particular, was anchored to the crease and looked at sea against the spinners. After surviving a strong lbw shout earlier in the over, Vince was put out of his misery when he was bowled by Fawad who has dominated the England batter over the years.
Rashid was again used in one-over bursts and it almost did the trick. The Strikers, however, will wish they could use their superstar for more than four overs.
Familiar problems for Strikers’ batting
With an impotent batting line-up, where they continually suffer collapses mid-innings, Strikers look a level below the top contenders. After a decent start, they lost 3 for 8 in the middle overs through reckless batting and they could not take advantage of a shorthanded Sixers attack.
Short, who came into the game with a strike rate of 151, looked set for something special but fell to a blinder of a catch from Christian at backward point.
When Weatherald’s lean season continued, Strikers were in a hole before Matt Renshaw and Jonathan Wells steadied the innings with a brisk half-century stand. The visitors had rejigged their batting line-up due to the return of Renshaw from Australia A duties and it did the trick as he combined well with Wells.
But in a familiar tale of woe, Strikers fell away only for impressive youngster Kelly’s late surge pushing them to respectability but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth and writes on sports for the Guardian and mailerreport