Blues see off slumping Bushrangers at the MCG
The DEC Bushrangers hopes of reaching the KFC t20 Big Bash Preliminary Final were ended after a crushing 17 run defeat against the Speedblitz Blues at the MCG in Melbourne.
Despite reaching 100-1 the defending champions suffered two dramatic batting collapses which saw them eliminated from the race to reach the final after their first ever t20 lost at the MCG.
Faced with a run chase of 169 Aaron Finch and Ryan Carters got the innings off to the perfect start with a 49 run opening partnership as the Bushrangers threatened to run riot.
Although they lost Carters (18) at the start of the 6th over, Finch and Brad Hodge continued the rapid scoring for the Bushrangers sharing a 51 run 2nd wicket partnership.
Finch led the way with a quick fire half century which came from just 34 deliveries as the opener brought up the landmark with a massive six of the bowling of Moises Henriques in the 11th over.
With a seemingly easy victory on the cards the Bushrangers suffered a batting collapse which was started by the dismissal of Finch (53) in the 12th over when he was stumped by Daniel Smith.
Having dismissed Finch; spinner Steve O’Keefe struck again 3 deliveries later to remove Hodge (23) who was trapped LBW to leave the Bushrangers 102-3.
Amazingly Andrew McDonald (0) quickly followed as the Bushrangers lost 3 wickets in the space of 6 deliveries to change the course of the game thank to a spirited fight back by the Blues.
With another 66 runs needed from just 45 deliveries the pressure was starting to mount with Michael Hill and Matthew Wade arriving at the crease with the Bushrangers in deep trouble.
The pair added 24 valuable runs before another collapse virtually ended the Bushrangers hopes after Hill (16) and Wade (8) fell in consecutive deliveries bowled by Sean Abbot to leave the home side 127-6.
Daniel Salpietro (8), Evan Gulbis (11) and Peter Siddle (4) tried to see the Bushrangers home but with the run rate increasing to 16 an over the Blues remained calm to seal victory.
Usman Khawaja scored a vital half century to help the Blues recover from a torrid start to set the Bushrangers a victory target of 169.
With the top order failing to fire Khawaja (65) remained calm to register his first ever KFC t20 Big Bash half century to help the Blues reach 168-7 after slumping to just 28-3.
Having won the toss Blues skipper Henriques would have been hoping to set the Bushrangers a big score to chase down on flat batting track at the MCG.
David Warner got the innings off to the perfect start dispatching spin bowler Daniel Salpietro for 10 runs during the opening over as the home side took the pace off the ball in an attempt to slow down the big hitting Blues opener.
Despite the good start shown by Warner; opening partner Philip Hughes (2) faired less well lasting just 4 deliveries before he was caught by Evan Gulbis out on the third man boundary after he wildly slashed at a Dirk Nannes delivery
Having used spin in the first over Bushrangers skipper Andrew McDonald turned to James Pattinson who came into the attack at the start of the third over replacing Salpietro.
The quick bowler took just 5 deliveries to remove danger man Warner (14) after the Blues opener was caught by Ryan Carters out on the deep boundary to leave the Blues 19-2.
Wicket keeper Smith (4) quickly followed Warner back to the dugout 6 deliveries later but with the arrival of Khawaja and Henriques the Blues fortunes started to improve.
With the Blues 28-3 the pair came together and built a 4th wicket partnership of 41 to help get the visitors innings back on track before Henriques (20) was dismissed by Pattinson at the start of the 9th over.
Rohrer (0) last three deliveries before he became Pattinson’s third victim of the night thanks to a brilliant one handed catch by Aaron Finch out on the third man boundary to leave the Blues 69-5.
Not for the first time in the innings Khawaja found himself having to rebuild the Blues innings and with O’Keefe in support the pair added 61 runs before Khawaja was dismissed by Nannes at the start of the 18th over.
Despite the loss of Khawaja; O’Keefe raced to fifty from just 36 deliveries which included a massive six off the bowling of Peter Siddle in the 19th over.
O’Keefe (50) innings came to an end on the final over when he was caught by Hill out on the boundary after he dispatched McDonalds first two deliveries for boundaries.
Tim Armstrong added another 8 runs from the final two deliveries as the Blues reached 168-7 to leave the Bushrangers facing a run chase of 169 to keep their KFC t20 Big Bash hopes alive.