The Thunder head to Adelaide after a convincing win on the road against the Hurricanes in ‘The Eliminator’ thanks to half centuries from Alex Hales, Usman Khawaja and 4/21 from Jono Cook who claimed the big wickets of Matthew Wade and D’Arcy Short. The Strikers haven’t played since last Sunday where they notched a franchise record score of 8/207, but fell short of the Hurricanes 1/217. The Strikers and Thunder have met twice this season, with a no result in Canberra early in the season and a New Years Eve thriller that the Thunder won by three runs at the Adelaide Oval, led by Callum Ferguson (73) and Usman Khawaja (63).
The Strikers are taking an unchanged squad from their loss to the Hobart Hurricanes on Australia Day. The Thunder are also taking in an unchanged squad from their victory over the Hurricanes in Hobart on Thursday night. The game sees two of the strongest top order batting line ups in the competition face of as Khawaja, Hales and Ferguson taking on Weatherald, Salt and Head looming as a key battle between the two sides. These two sides have met once in the BBL finals, back in the BBL05 semi-finals as an Usman Khawaja century led the Thunder to an upset victory at the Adelaide Oval. The winner of Saturday night's final will play away in 'The Challenger' for a place in the competition's final, against the loser of the Melbourne Stars-Sydney Sixers game on Friday evening.
Adelaide Strikers Squad (13): Travis Head (c), Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Harry Conway, Rashid Khan, Michael Neser, Liam O’Connor, Phil Salt, Matt Short, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells
Sydney Thunder Squad (13): Callum Ferguson (C), Liam Bowe, Jonathan Cook, Brendan Doggett, Alex Hales, Usman Khawaja, Jay Lenton, Nathan McAndrew, Chris Morris, Arjun Nair, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Chris Tremain
The Strikers come into the finals with four wins out of their past five games and look like a serious title contender. They have arguably the deepest batting line up in the competition with Salt, Weatherald, Head, Carey, Wells and Short they Strikers bat deep. Add in the experience of Peter Siddle, the pace of Wes Agar and Billy Stanklake as well as the league’s most dangerous bowler in Rashid Khan and the Strikers have all the ingredients to win the Big Bash title. Maybe their most important aspect is that they’re the only team to have beaten the Stars twice this season, given the Stars history of choking in finals, you can guarantee they won’t want to see the Strikers in the finals. The Strikers have a slight 6-5 head to head advantage over the Thunder, including four wins from their last six matches against the Thunder.
Jon Wells has had an incredible tournament which has pushed his case for Australian T20 selection. Wells ranks fourth in the competition for runs with 444 runs with the highest average in the competition of 74 and a quality strike rate of 136.19. Well’s last six innings have produced knocks of 58, 14, 45*, 55*, 23* and 15, totalling 196 runs at an average of 65.33. Wells also ranks 7th for most runs in matches between the Strikers and Thunder, with 117 runs. Wells top scored for the Strikers in their first match this season against the Thunder with a brisk 55 not out of just 32 deliveries. Wells has been a revelation for the Strikers this season, he has been exceptional at the Adelaide Oval throughout the middle to late overs with his game being so strong square of the wicket. Wells will like his match-ups against Chris Morris, Daniel Sams and Brendan Dogget given his ability to hit the ball so well square of the wicket. When the pressure is on in a do or die finals match, expect wells to put in another big performance for the Strikers.
The Thunder are riding a wave of momentum after back to back wins to secure a spot in the finals and now advance an extra game in their finals campaign. The Thunder top three have begun to get back to their early season form that saw them reach the top of the table. Remarkably the Thunder are yet to lose a finals match across the history of the BBL, they are a perfect 3-0 in finals matches whereas the Strikers are an even 2-2 in finals matches. Khawaja (350 runs, ranked 19th), Hales (509 runs, ranked 2nd) and Callum Ferguson (368 runs, ranked 13th) have been the driving force behind the Thunder’s run to the finals. In ‘The Eliminator’ on Thursday they produced when it mattered most with Hales (60 off 37), Khawaja (54 off 34) and Ferguson (33 off 22) played massive roles in the Thunder putting up a match winning score, they’ll need to do it again on Saturday night.
Usman Khawaja has built a reputation of being a big game performer that begun back in BBL05 with a legendary finals campaign from Khawaja that led the Thunder to their only title. Khawaja scored 104 not out, off just 59 deliveries to lead the Thunder to an eight wicket win in the BBL05 semis against the Strikers. Khawaja has now scored 228 runs at an extraordinary average of 114 from his three innings in finals matches for the Thunder, with an incredible strike rate of 171. Khawaja ranks third all time in runs scored in matches between the Thunder and Strikers with 182 runs at an average of 60.67, with a strike rare of 143.31. You can guarantee a big performance from the best big game player in the competition as he tries to drag his side across the line again in the Big Bash Finals.
The ghosts of the BBL05 semi final will have the Strikers nervous after seeing another Usman Khawaja finals masterclass on Thursday. However the reality is that the Thunder have gotten no contributions outside of their top three at all this season whereas the Strikers have incredible batting depth right through their order. The Strikers have a bowling attack that will challenge the lack of depth in this Thunder batting line up and Rashid Khan will be looking to cause mayhem against a side that has struggled against spin this season. The home ground advantage will be a massive factor for the Strikers at what will be a full house at the Adelaide Oval. This game will be a tight contest, but the Strikers depth with both bat and ball will be too much for the Sydney Thunder.
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