Sydney Thunder 1 for 116 (Hales 63*, Ferguson 46*) beat Adelaide Strikers 4 for 115 (Weatherald 80*) by nine wickets
The Sydney Thunder cruised home by nine wickets to secure their place in the BBL playoffs, leaving the Adelaide Strikers facing an anxious wait to see if results fall their way in Tuesday's triple-header.
In a match reduced to 14 overs per side after heavy afternoon rain, the Strikers struggled early in their innings, crawling to 3 for 39 after eight overs. Jake Weatherald batted through for an unbeaten 80, the only score of note, and made 50 off the last 19 balls he faced as his death hitting dragged them up to 115.
But after losing Usman Khawaja to the first ball of their run chase, the Thunder kept the required rate in check, with Alex Hales, the competition's leading run-scorer and form batsman, leading the charge. He struck 63 not out in an unbroken 116-run partnership for the second wicket with Callum Ferguson, seeing them home with 11 balls to spare.
The Thunder are almost guaranteed to finish third after wrapping up a four-point win, thanks in part to their net run-rate, which is among the best in the competition. If they do, they will contest the Knockout on January 31, playing the winner of the Eliminator (between the teams who finish fourth and fifth); if they win, they play the loser of the Qualifier (between the top two) on February 4 for a place in the final two days later.
The Strikers, meanwhile, face a nervous wait on results elsewhere. They are going to be eliminated if the Hobart Hurricanes beat the Melbourne Renegades and at least one of the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars win their respective games with a bonus point, or if both the Heat and the Stars win with a bonus point.
Adelaide's false start
The start was delayed by an hour following heavy rain, which came as a relief to locals after bushfires in the hills outside the city. A no-result would have suited both sides after the Strikers' win in last night's reverse fixture - it would have given them two points each and effectively confirmed their finals spots - but the weather relented to allow for a 14-over game.
After they were asked to bat first, the Strikers could only manage 15 runs in the three-over powerplay, for the loss of Alex Carey, who chipped a catch to mid-off on the edge of the ring. The next five overs were where they really lost their way, adding just 24 more with Phil Salt - holing out to deep midwicket - and Travis Head - lofting to sweeper-cover - both giving their wickets away against the spinners.
Weatherald's late flurry
After hitting only four boundaries in the first eight overs, the Strikers had only one option in the final six: attack. Weatherald obliged, spanking Tanveer Sangha for four and then whipping him for six over backward square-leg in the ninth, before Adam Milne, bowling the solitary Power Surge over, was dispatched for four fours - two each from Weatherald and Jon Wells.
Weatherald nailed two more sixes off Chris Green in the 12th and heaved Milne for one more in the 14th, but a canny 13th from Brendan Doggett cost only seven runs, and the Strikers' total of 115 left them needing early wickets, and ruing their sluggish start.
Worrall's vanishing act
As is his wont, Daniel Worrall took the new ball for the Strikers and struck immediately. His first ball was a full, vicious inswinger, which ripped out Khawaja's off stump. The ball swung in appreciably, thanks to both the humidity and Worrall's skill at extracting any movement available, and gave the Strikers a chance to expose the Thunder's middle order.
But, inexplicably, Head decided against giving Worrall the third over of the chase, instead turning to Peter Siddle after Michael Neser had shared the new ball. Hales dumped Siddle's third ball into the second tier at deep midwicket, and any swing available appeared to have disappeared by the time Worrall returned to bowl the fourth.
Instead, Hales flicked a four off his pads and Ferguson top-edged another as the Thunder took 13 runs off Worrall's over. Hales lofted Wes Agar over mid-off and then cut him through point to get them ahead of the rate in the fifth over and secure the bonus point with 16 balls to spare, and from that point on, the chase looked serene.
Hales' swipe over square leg off Liam O'Connor saw him break Marcus Stoinis' record for most sixes in a BBL season - it was his 29th - and he nudged a single to bring up a 31-ball fifty straight after. He drilled another six off Siddle in the 11th, before Ferguson chipped the same bowler down the ground at the start of the 13th to secure a four-point win.