Pom under fire as Thunder power on
Ricky Ponting accused Sydney Thunder of breaching the spirit of the game during Thursday night's stunning win over the Hobart Hurricanes in the first Big Bash eliminator.
Commenting on Channel 7, Ponting said the Thunder's English import Alex Hales had broken the rules by stepping outside the inner circle while fielding at mid on.
Under the rules, teams are only allowed to place four fielders outside the circle, but when Hales stepped back, that meant the Thunder had five and Ponting was not impressed.
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"It's cheating," he said, before later softening his criticism by saying, "well, it's not in the spirit of the game."
Hales said he had spoken with umpires on the field to clarify what was happening.
"As soon as the bowler lets go of the ball you're allow to leave the ring, which is what I was doing," Hales said.
"I think that's what they thought on the replay (that I was leaving early) but I was pretty sure I was leaving after he let it go."
Hales said he was trying to anticipate where the batsman would hit the ball.
"If someone goes for a reverse sweep, first slip moves after the ball is let go," he said.
"Once the ball is let go and you see the batsman swing, you can react in the field. For me I think it's fine, if it's in the rules. I don't think it's bad sportsmanship at all."
BIG MATCH TEAM
What is it about the Sydney Thunder and the finals?
How can it be that that BBL's worst performed franchise is the best when it comes to the playoffs?
The Thunder have only made the finals twice in nine seasons, but on the rare occasions they have got there, they're unbeatable. Literally.
Get this, they are the only franchise in the BBL that has never lost a playoff match.
Admittedly, Thursday night's 57-run demolition job on the Hobart Hurricanes may have only been their third finals match ever but don't sniff at the low numbers because the last time they made the postseason they went all the way.
Their last playoff win was in the final four years ago when they beat the Melbourne Stars at the MCG. Three days before that they beat the Strikers at Adelaide Oval and don't rule out a repeat performance now they're drawn to play each other in South Australia on Saturday night.
The key to winning the BBL isn't rocket science. All you need to do is play your best in the knockout matches and that's exactly why the Thunder are rumbling on and the Hurricanes are already planning for next season.
Their daunting total of 5-197 was easily their best total this season after Usman Khawaja and Alex Hales laid the platform by posting their best partnership this campaign - 103 for the opening wicket in less than 10 overs.
Khawaja's been inconsistent this season but the discarded Aussie international has always stepped up for the Thunder when they need him most.
In the year the Thunder won the title, he made a century in the semi and 70 in the final so no-one was the least surprised when he rattled off 54 last night, from just 34 balls.
Only Hales did better with the bat, belting 60 from 37 deliveries.
The Poms may have ditched him but the English import is quickly becoming a cult hero in western Sydney because he's been a one-man wrecking ball all season.
One of his three sixes last night, off Scott Boland, landed on the roof of the double-storey Ricky Ponting Stand as he posted his fifth half-century of the season and his third against the Tasmanians in three weeks - to lift his aggregate for the season past 500.
SURPRISE BOWLING HERO
Daniel Sams excluded, the Thunder's bowlers have struggled to take wickets regularly this season so they were no sure thing to defend their massive total.
The Hurricanes are the only BBL team to have chased down more than 200 to win - but they've done it three times - and secured their place in the finals by smashing 217 to beat Adelaide last week.
With Matthew Wade and D'Arcy Short flying out of the blocks, the Thunder needed someone to step up and the man who did was not the tournament's leading wicket-taker Sams, but his unheralded teammate Jono Cook.
An environmental planner by trade, the underrated spinner captured career-best figures of 4-21 to be named man of the match - bagging the wickets of Wade and Short in his first two overs then Simon Milenko and Clive Rose in successive balls in his final over to make it a comfortable win for the Thunder.