Jason Sangha, one of Australian cricket’s brightest young talents, has bludgeoned his best domestic knock yet, stepping up in the absence of key teammates to inspire the Sydney Thunder to victory as the Adelaide Strikers’ nagging flaw brought about their downfall again.
With four Thunder players testing positive to coronavirus on Friday, the match was only given the go ahead under strict health protocols a few hours before the bat flip at Adelaide Oval.
But that disrupted preparation didn’t hamper the Thunder and Sangha, who passed 50 for the second straight match then went on to inspire a weakened Thunder outfit to 3-187 against the Strikers — a total the home team ultimately fell 22 runs short of.
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The 22-year-old combined deft touch with sheer power to finish not out on 91 off just 55 balls — his highest BBL score to date — in a knock that included six fours and six sixes.
“This has been an extraordinary innings from Sangha,” Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket.
“He doesn’t hit a lot of sixes, but when he got into six mode he turned feral. He kept his head still under the ball, controlled it and kept finding the rope.
“This wasn’t an announcement because we’ve known Jason Sangha has been around for some time, but it was another step forward for the kid.”
Sangha found great support in fellow young gun Ollie Davies, who finished 26 not out off 12 balls. He hit two fours and one six — the latter being a stunning shot over extra cover for six off Strikers spinner Rashid Khan.
“Oh stop it … that is an absolute joke he’s hit that there,” Fox Cricket’s Brett Lee said.
With Covid forcing the Thunder to make several changes for Friday night’s clash, Ben Cutting — usually a lower order hitter — was promoted to open the batting in the absence of Alex Hales.
Strikers pace bowler Dan Worrall made it tough at the start of the innings, conceding just two runs from the first over before delivering a bouncer that hit Cutting on the helmet.
“They are on tonight, the Strikers,” Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe said.
But Cutting got the upper hand later in the over, hitting three fours and two sixes as he clobbered 37 runs to help get the Thunder off to a quick start.
The Strikers brought on veteran leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, who struck immediately as Matthew Gilkes was caught at long-on for 13.
Cutting was then dismissed for 37 to leave Sydney 2-67. But Sangha combined well with Sam Billings (18) then 21-year-old Davies, with the latter partnership an unbeaten 89.
In response, Thunder paceman Saqib Mahmood trapped Matt Short LBW to leave the Strikers 1-23 after three overs.
Left-handers Jake Weatherald and Matt Renshaw then grinded out a 68-run partnership, with Renshaw freeing his arms to hit five boundaries.
But then the Strikers fell into familiar territory during the power surge and lost key wickets, with Renshaw (38) and Weatherald (31) both caught in the in-field to leave the Strikers reeling at 3-96.
Sangha’s night got even better, this time with ball in hand. After bowling just one over from 16 previous T20 matches, Sangha took his first BBL wicket, drawing a false shot out of Thomas Kelly (1), who was caught at point.
The collapse continued, with George Garton (8) dismissed to leave Adelaide 5-119 midway through the 16th over.
“To me, it’s just silly, silly batting. They’re not learning from their mistakes,” Fox Cricket’s Brad Haddin said.
“I know you can use data as a tool, but there’s enough there now to say ‘we need a plan for this’ because it’s costing them cricket games and they can’t be naive to the fact this has ruined their season: The power surge and their smarts around it.”
Strikers batter Jon Wells launched a late comeback bid, using his trademark batting nous and power to get his team within striking distance.
But ultimately too much was left to too few, with Wells dismissed for 46 off Daniel Sams’ bowling to seal victory for the Thunder.
Sams then had Rashid caught behind to finish with 4-33 — his third four-wicket T20 haul.
The Strikers picked up another Bash Boost point, but have now lost five games in a row, have just one win from their first seven games and have a mountain to climb in the second half of the season.
The Thunder remains right in the finals hunt, having recorded a fourth win of the season, Daniel Sams outstanding with 4-33 from his four overs.
— with NCA Newswire
PRE-GAME: COVID CHAOS
— Tom Morris reports …
Sydney Thunder will be significantly weakened for at least their next three games following confirmation four players have tested positive for Covid-19.
Batters Alex Hales and Alex Ross will need to isolate, as will spinner Tanveer Sangha and keeper-batter Sam Whiteman, after all tested positive.
Confirmation of these four positive results forced Thunder to name a new-look team for their New Year’s Eve game against Adelaide Strikers, with the visitors to be under strict protocols never seen before the Big Bash.
The Level 5 protocols will include Thunder players needing to stay separate from one another and their opponents. They’ll be split between change rooms, with only one person allowed inside at a time while wearing a mask.
Even while they are batting, Thunder players will be required to sit in groups of no more than three people to minimise the risk of spreading the virus which has already fallen four of the club’s players.
There will also be no X-factor to minimise players on the ground.
Though the protocols, as outlined in Cricket Australia’s submission for an exemption from the South Australia government, would be similar to matches played in Tasmania and Western Australia this summer and all states last summer, the fact only 12 players, a coach and physio will be allowed at the ground makes it unique.
Both clubs and Cricket Australia on Friday were confident the South Australian health authorities would grant the exemption, with the official go-ahead given on Friday afternoon just hours before the first ball.
But there are implications for the Thunder beyond Friday night with the club due to play another game on January 2 against the Strikers then again on January 5 against the Scorchers.
It’s unclear whether the quartet of Thunder players will need to isolate in South Australia for 10 days – as per the state’s regulations – or whether they will be permitted to return to NSW and isolate for seven days there.
If they are required to remain in SA, Hales, Tanveer, Ross and Whiteman would also be unavailable for the January 8 games against the Melbourne Renegades.
As cover, Fox Cricket understands the Thunder have called up spinner Arjun Nair and left-handed NSW batter Lachlan Hearne, who has played two Shield games but is yet to make his BBL debut.
Nair has been a semi-regular Thunder player for five years and last played for the club in January.
Accounting for the positive cases, the Thunder will have 16 players to pick from until they return.
The chaos comes after Thursday night’s BBL clash between the Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers was postponed after a Stars staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
“Firstly, our thoughts go to everyone in the community affected by the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, including members of our Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder squads,” BBL general manager Alistair Dobson said.
“We thank the Strikers, Thunder and SA Health for their hard work today to ensure this match can proceed.
“We will continue to work closely with our Clubs, relevant governments, broadcasters, partners and venues to ensure the season continues safely and successfully throughout January.”
The Thunder confirmed to Fox Cricket they would be able to field at least 11 players after four tested positive in the last 24 hours.
The concern for state health authorities had revolved around close contacts within the Thunder team. Though all other players and coaches have since returned negative PCR tests.
All Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers players have been undertaking Rapid Antigen Tests daily since the beginning of the BBL.
Strikers XI: Matt Short, Jake Weatherald, Matt Renshaw, Jon Wells, Thomas Kelly, George Garton, Harry Nielsen (wk), Rashid Khan, Daniel Worrall, Peter Siddle (c), Fawad Ahmed. X-Factor subs: Henry Hunt, Daniel Drew, Henry Hunt (X-factor), Daniel Drew (X-factor)
Thunder XI: Matthew Gilkes, Ollie Davies, Jason Sangha, Sam Billings (wk), Daniel Sams, Ben Cutting, Arjun Nair, Nathan McAndrew, Chris Green (c), Brendan Doggett, Saqib Mahmood, Lachie Hearne (X-factor), Gurinder Sandhu (X-factor)
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