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Match 8: Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Heat exploit the conditions

The Brisbane Heat seamers bowled excellently according to the conditions, exploiting the uneven bounce and big square boundaries by bowling a high proportion of back of a length and short balls which forced Sydney Thunder to play cross-batted shots which appeared harder to time well.

Between them Mark Steketee, Ben Cutting and Jake Wildermuth bowled 23 short deliveries from which just 20 runs were scored and nine back of a length deliveries from which 10 runs were scored.

Kurtis Patterson and Eoin Morgan, who faced the most balls in Sydney Thunder’s innings, played 25 cuts and pulls between which brought them just 21 runs. 22 (22) of their runs were from edged or mis-timed shots.

The match flips

A lot of the good work of Brisbane’s bowlers was undone by the twentieth over of the innings, bowled by Mitchell Swepson, which went for 27 runs – 17% of Thunder’s final total. The decision to bowl Swepson, a leg-spinner, for the last over was a risky one – but was a tactic that is likely to have been decided upon a few overs previously when Brendon McCullum, perhaps looking to land a killer blow to Thunder’s innings, opted to bowl out his four frontline bowlers Steketee, Cutting, Wildermuth and Samuel Badree, and therefore was faced with a choice between Swepson (2-0-22-1) or Jason Floros (1-0-4-0) for the final over.

This is a tactic often utilised in run chases, when a tight over prior to the 20th can put the game beyond the chasing team. However, in the first innings – unless predicated on a favourable match-up, of which according to the career data of Ben Rohrer, Pat Cummins, Chris Green and Clint McKay, there wasn’t – it is a risky tactic given that the batsmen are compelled to attack whoever bowls the 20th over.

The counter argument is that had McCullum not bowled out his frontline bowlers when he had, and instead given Swepson his third over earlier, life could have been breathed into the Thunder’s innings sooner than the 20th and more damage been done. Regardless of why, the decision was a risky one, and given that Heat were in a position of strength already, it was arguably a risk that didn’t need to be taken.

Thunder dominate the Powerplay 

Although this was a match in which shorter length bowling appeared harder to hit—the economy rate for short balls was 6.51 and back of a length balls 4.94—the Sydney Thunder made significant inroads into the Brisbane Heat’s top order in the Powerplay by bowling full to exploit any swing movement. The fuller length, delivered at high pace by Andre Russell and Patrick Cummins and accurately by Clint McKay, took the wickets of Jimmy Peirson, Brendon McCullum and Alex Ross inside the first four overs with just 19 runs scored.

The warning shots

Bowling full is risky. It is a risk that in the first four overs paid off for the Thunder. However, in the sixth over of the innings that changed as Chris Lynn hit Cummins for five consecutive fours: four of them from full deliveries (two from full tosses and one each from a half volley and a length ball).

However, it would be churlish to be overly critical of Cummins for persisting with the full ball in that over given that it had already brought three wickets and one more, especially if it was Lynn, would have most probably put the match beyond Brisbane. While the result of the over was bad the process at least was sound.

Thunder let it slip 

It is harder to understand that ten overs later with Lynn still at the crease and requiring 12 runs per over and therefore compelled to attack, that Russell, McKay and Cummins all regularly bowled a fuller length once again. Six of Russell’s ten death deliveries were length balls or fuller, and cost 15 runs; four of Cummins’ six death deliveries were length balls or fuller, and cost six runs (he also conceded a four from a top edged short ball and two from a drop catch off a short ball) and five of McKay’s death deliveries were length balls or fuller and cost 17 runs.

In the match the economy rate of length balls and fuller was 8.37 compared to just 6 for anything shorter. 42% of deliveries bowled by Heat’s seamers were back of a length or shorter, compared to 27% for the Thunder.

The stats indicate that Thunder saw the yorker as their go-to delivery under pressure, which is understandable – it is a difficult delivery to hit, and they conceded 2 (5) from it. The trouble is an over-pitched yorker is a full-toss and an under-pitched yorker is a half volley. Thunder conceded 15 (6) from full tosses and 21 (10) from half volleys. The Heat instead looked to a shorter length and although they landed fewer yorkers, three, they also bowled fewer full tosses and conceded half as many runs from the half volleys they did bowl. Across the whole match Heat’s seamers delivered 23 short balls compared to Thunder’s 12. 

Fortune favours those who can catch? 

In such a tight match luck can play a decisive role. Brisbane Heat scored 33 (24) from edges and mis-timed shots, including 22 (9) from Lynn alone, while Thunder scored 32 (31). The Thunder did have their chances to kill the match though, dropping Lynn twice in the last two overs and Wildermuth once in the sixteenth. Had just one of those catches been held it is likely there would have been a different result.

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Match 3: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder

Match Analysis Freddie Wilde

Finch right at home 

During his innings Aaron Finch went past 700 runs at the Etihad Stadium – he loves batting there and his innings was yet another example of that. Using the dimensions of the ground to his advantage two of his three fours and three of his four sixes were hit to the shorter square boundaries while five of his six twos were hit straighter. Finch scored 42 (20) off the front foot and 12 (3) when backing away towards the leg side to give himself room over to hit over the off side. He only scored 9 (13) off the back foot and was happy to duck under or defend short balls from Patrick Cummins and Andre Russell – perhaps wise given that his opening partner Marcus Harris attacked a Russell short ball, was rushed by the pace, late on the shot and caught at mid-on.

The pitch map below reflects Finch’s front-foot heavy run-scoring in that all of his boundaries were from full deliveries. The pitch-map also indicates that the Thunder bowlers gave him very little width – shrewd given the short square boundaries. That Finch scored as many as he did as quickly as he did was as much testament to his power and ability than it was any notably poor bowling. All it took was a handful of balls that were a tad too straight and a tad too full and Finch punished them. On a good batting pitch such as this the margins of error are so small. Credit should be given where it is due: Finch looked imperious from his very first ball, 39 (8) of his runs came from clean hits, and he only mis-timed the ball twice in his innings and did not edge any shots.

Fawad snares Finch

The story of Finch’s dismissal was a lovely sequence of three deliveries from leg spinner Fawad Ahmed displayed on the pitch map below. The first two were straight, average paced leg breaks, not bad balls, that Finch shimmied down to and brilliantly lofted inside-out over extra cover for six. Anticipating another charge, Ahmed bowled the third delivery quicker and didn’t impart as much spin – while the first two had turned 2.65° and 5.00° respectively, this one skidded on, deviating just 1.30° off the surface. The subtle change worked as Finch was was caught 15 yards inside the boundary after making a poor connection on his third inside-out drive.

Thunder’s silver lining

In an otherwise disappointing performance the bowling and batting of Cummins was a bright spot for Sydney Thunder. Cummins bowled with good pace, five times breaching 90mph, but more impressive was his accuracy – to both right handers and left handers he maintained an excellent tight line before nailing his yorkers in his one over at the death. With the bat his cameo of 36 (23), following his 30 (20) v Sydney Sixers suggests he could be a genuine batting option for the Thunder.

Spin and bounce does for Patterson 

Melbourne Renegades’ total of 179 was the highest at the Etihad Stadium since December 2013 and the third highest score ever at the ground. Chasing the runs was always going to be tough against a strong bowling attack and that task was made considerably more difficult when Kurtis Patterson was dismissed first ball by Tom Cooper. While the shot itself was loose, especially with a gully and a point in place, the ball did turn and bounce more than any other delivery bowled by Tom Cooper in his two overs – explaining but not excusing the dismissal.

Tremain stays in the tracks

While Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg collected two wickets with typically accurate and intelligent bowling, significant damage had been done to the run-chase before then by Chris Tremain who bowled three of the opening seven overs, conceding just 16 runs and dismissing Eoin Morgan. At the end of his third over Tremain’s tight stump-to-stump line had kept the Thunder to 42 for 2, and the required run rate had risen to 10.61. With one more from Tremain and 11 from Bravo, Narine and Hogg still to bowl, the defending champions had left themselves with too much to do.

Tremain later returned and although he bowled two height wides he also bowled two legitimate short balls to Russell, both of which were swung at and missed before he had Russell dropped off the fifth ball of the over.

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Match 1: Sydney Thunder v Sydney Sixers

Match Analysis | Freddie Wilde

Sixers stray off line

Speaking after the match Sydney Sixers’ captain Moises Henriques said that he felt in Sydney Thunder’s Powerplay it was poor bowling more than it was good batting that contributed to the Thunder’s score of 64-1 after six overs. 39 of those runs came from just two overs – five and six, bowled by Joe Mennie and Doug Bollinger – and were indeed largely the product of poor bowling. To the left handed Eoin Morgan, Mennie and Bollinger bowled too straight and leaked four boundaries through fine leg. To the right handed Ryan Gibson, Bollinger a left-armer bowling over the wicket, gave too much width outside off stump from balls angled across the batsman and on three occasions he was lashed for fours through cover point and third man.

 

Sixers squeeze, Thunder splutter

In T20 cricket after the Powerplay when the field drops back and more spinners are deployed the pace of the game changes. Here the Sixers thrived on the transition while the Thunder struggled as the three overs immediately after the Powerplay brought just ten runs and the wicket of Morgan. Stephen O’Keefe and Johan Botha bowled very straight and Sean Abbott in a channel outside off stump, angled in from round the wicket. With boundary-riders on both sides of the ground the boundary supply was cut-off, but crucially eight dot balls were bowled too as Morgan and Gibson struggled to pierce the gaps, twice timing shots straight to fielders, and on one occasion Morgan swung wildly and missed.

The Thunder had got ahead of the game in the first six overs but this stagnation prior to the collapse meant the lower-order were left with a lot of ground to catch up in the final third of the innings.

Roy’s leap

The value of good fielders was displayed spectacularly by Jason Roy as his full length dive at backward point turned what would have been a four through third man into a wicket, transforming Thunder’s post-Powerplay blip into a Sixers surge. Later in the innings the Sixers’ other England import Sam Billings took a fine tumbling catch running in at mid-wicket to dismiss Gibson.

Russell restrained

Short and straight is the best place to bowl to Andre Russell who has on occasion been floored by short balls in the past. Against such a powerful player it won’t always work and will sometimes be punished, but here Bollinger was rewarded for just that line and length with the key wicket, as the pitch map below illustrates.

Attack: two can play at that game

With the wicket of Russell, Thunder had lost four for 15. After the onslaught of the Powerplay the tables had turned. Henriques spotted the opportunity and went on the attack, bringing in a slip for the new man Chris Green. The move was vindicated moments later as Green edged his second ball straight to Daniel Hughes at a wide second slip who took a sharp catch.

Thunder’s fielding let the Sixers slip away

Fielding proved to be a major difference between these two teams: the Sixers recorded a fielding impact score of +11.2 – 27.25 runs more than the Thunder’s -16.05. While the Sixers took some excellent catches to restrict the Thunder to a below-par score, the Thunder made some costly errors, turning what could have been a tight chase in to a procession. Henriques, who finished with 76* (41) was dropped twice, first on 0 (1) by Clint McKay at short fine leg – a tough but catchable chance – and then on 28 (26) by Pat Cummins – a tougher chance, running back at mid wicket – but one Roy, for example, would have taken.

Additionally, just before the second drop, building pressure was diminished as Gurinder Sandhu conceded four through his legs at short third man. When defending a low score the fielding team can’t afford to make such mistakes.

Clean-hitting Henriques

Although the Thunder’s fielding let them down and Henriques off, Sixers’ number three made the most of his good fortune and played a captain’s innings to guide the chase. He displayed wonderfully clean ball-striking, with just 5 (2) of his 76 runs coming from edges and 51 (12) coming from well-timed shots, in contrast 12 (4) of Hughes’ 54* (49) came from edges or gloved deflections, while 16 (7) came from well-timed shots. Perhaps the most important of Henriques eleven boundaries was a shot of class, not power. In the tenth over after just 11 runs had come from the preceding 14 deliveries, he cut a quicker ball from Ahmed off middle stump and through third man to release the pressure.

CricViz are covering all 35 Big Bash League matches @CricProf. 

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