Jason Sangha, one of the brightest young talents in Australian cricket, has struck his best domestic shot yet, stepping up in the absence of key teammates to inspire the Sydney Thunder to victory when the Adelaide Strikers’ imperious failure sparked their fall again.
Sangha went 50 for the second straight game and then inspired a weakened Thunder team to 3-187 against the Strikers, a total the home team fell 22 runs behind.
The 22-year-old combined deft touch with sheer power to not finish 91 in just 55 balls, his highest BBL score to date, in a hit that included six fours and six sixes.
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“This has been an extraordinary entry from Sangha,” Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe told Fox Cricket.
“He doesn’t hit many sixes, but when he got into six mode he went wild. He kept his head still under the ball, controlled it, and continued to search for the rope.
“This was not an advertisement because we knew Jason Sangha has been around for some time, but it was another step forward for the boy.”
Sangha found great support from teammate Ollie Davies, who finished with 26 rather than 12 balls. He hit two fours and one six, the latter being an impressive shot over the extra coverage of six off Strikers spinner Rashid Khan.
“Oh stop … it’s an absolute joke that I hit that,” said Brett Lee of Fox Cricket.
With Covid forcing the Thunder to make several changes for Friday night’s clash, Ben Cutting, usually a lower-order hitter, was promoted to lead batting in the absence of Alex Hales.
Strikers rhythm pitcher Dan Worrall made it difficult early in the innings, conceding just two runs from the first over before launching a goalie that hit Cutting in the helmet.
“It’s on tonight, the Strikers,” Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe said.
But Cutting took the lead later in the end, hitting three fours and two sixes while hitting 37 runs to help the Thunder get off to a fast start.
The Strikers brought in veteran Fawad Ahmed, who hit right away when Matthew Gilkes was caught at 13-length.
Cutting was then fired by 37 to leave Sydney 2-67. But Sangha matched well with Sam Billings (18) then 21-year-old Davies, with the latter joining 89 undefeated.
In response, Thunder leader Saqib Mahmood caught Matt Short LBW to leave the Strikers 1-23 after three overs.
Lefties Jake Weatherald and Matt Renshaw then posted a 68-run partnership, with Renshaw releasing his arms to reach five limits.
But then the Strikers fell into familiar territory during the power surge and lost key ground, with Renshaw (38) and Weatherald (31) both trapped on the field to leave the Strikers reeling at 3-96.
Sangha’s night was even better, this time with the ball in hand. After throwing just one more of 16 previous T20 matches, Sangha took his first BBL wicket, taking a false shot from Thomas Kelly (1), who was caught on point.
The collapse continued, with George Garton (8) sacked to leave Adelaide 5-119 in the mid-16th.
“To me, he’s just a dumb, dumb hitting. They are not learning from their mistakes, “said Brad Haddin of Fox Cricket.
“I know you can use the data as a tool, but now there is enough to say ‘we need a plan for this’ because cricket games are costing them and they cannot be naïve to the fact that this has ruined their season: power surge and his intelligence around him. “
Strikers hitter Jon Wells pitched a late comeback offer, using his trademark hitting nous and power to put his team within attacking distance.
But ultimately, too much was left for too few, and Wells was fired 46 on the pin by Daniel Sams to seal the Thunder’s victory.
Sams then caught Rashid to finish at 4-33, his third four-course T20 run.
BEFORE THE GAME: COVID CHAOS
– Tom Morris reports …
Sydney Thunder will weaken significantly for at least its next three games following confirmation that four players have tested positive for Covid-19.
Hitters Alex Hales and Alex Ross will need to isolate themselves, as will spinner Tanveer Sangha and goalie-hitter Sam Whiteman, after they all tested positive.
Confirmation of these four positive results forced the Thunder to name a new team for their New Years Eve game against Adelaide Strikers, with the visitors under strict protocols never seen before before the Big Bash.
Level 5 protocols will include Thunder players who need to keep clear of each other and their opponents. They will be divided between the changing rooms, and only one person will be allowed to enter at a time with a mask.
Even while batting, Thunder players will need to sit in groups of no more than three people to minimize the risk of spreading the virus that has already fallen to four of the club’s players.
There will also be no X factor to minimize players on the ground.
Although the protocols, as outlined in Cricket Australia’s submission for a South Australian government waiver, would be similar to the games played in Tasmania and Western Australia this summer and across states last summer, the fact that only 12 players, a coach and a physiotherapist will be allowed on the floor makes it unique.
Both clubs and Cricket Australia were confident on Friday that South Australian health authorities would grant the waiver, and the official go-ahead was given just hours before the first ball on Friday afternoon.
But there are implications for the Thunder beyond Friday night with the club as they will play another game on January 2 against the Strikers and then again on January 5 against the Scorchers.
It is unclear if the Thunder’s quartet of players will need to isolate themselves in South Australia for 10 days, per state regulations, or if they will be allowed to return to New South Wales and isolate themselves for seven days there.
If they must remain in South Africa, Hales, Tanveer, Ross and Whiteman will also not be available for the January 8 games against the Melbourne Renegades.
As a cover, Fox Cricket understands that the Thunder have called up spinner Arjun Nair and NSW left-handed hitter Lachlan Hearne, who has played two Shield games but has yet to make his BBL debut.
Nair has been a semi-regular for the Thunder for five years and last played for the club in January.
Considering the positive cases, the Thunder will have 16 players to choose from until they return.
The chaos comes after Thursday night’s BBL clash between Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers was postponed after a Stars staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
“First of all, our thoughts go out to all community members affected by the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, including members of our Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder squads,” said BBL General Manager Alistair Dobson. .
“We thank Strikers, Thunder and SA Health for their hard work today to ensure this match can continue.
“We will continue to work closely with our clubs, relevant governments, broadcasters, partners and venues to ensure the season continues safely and successfully throughout the month of January.”
The Thunder confirmed to Fox Cricket that they could field at least 11 players after four tested positive in the past 24 hours.
Concern for state health authorities had revolved around close contacts within the Thunder team. Although all the other players and coaches have given negative results in PCR tests.
All the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers players have been taking rapid antigen tests every day since the start of the BBL.
Strikers XI: Matt Short, Jake Weatherald, Matt Renshaw, Jon Wells, Thomas Kelly, George Garton, Harry Nielsen (week), Rashid Khan, Daniel Worrall, Peter Siddle (c), Fawad Ahmed. Substitutes for factor X: Henry Hunt, Daniel Drew, Henry Hunt (factor X), Daniel Drew (factor X)
Thunder XI: Matthew Gilkes, Ollie Davies, Jason Sangha, Sam Billings (week), Daniel Sams, Ben Cutting, Arjun Nair, Nathan McAndrew, Chris Green (c), Brendan Doggett, Saqib Mahmood, Lachie Hearne (X factor), Gurinder Sandhu (Factor X)
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