The Hoff shines for Sixers in Coffs
THE Hoff is back.
Just ask Alex Carey.
If anyone can vouch for Josh Hazlewood's fitness after he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, it's the Australian vice-captain.
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He had his stumps knocked out of the ground by Hazlewood Sunday night as the big quick capped his long awaited return to the Big Bash by taking 1-18 to help the Sydney Sixers beat the Adelaide Strikers by seven wickets.
The Strikers were on target for a massive total after blazing 53 off the first five overs when Hazlewood turned the match Sydney's way with a blistering second spell to get the prized wicket of Carey for 29.
"I was a little bit nervous for my hamstring, to put it under pressure in a match but I only had to bowl four overs: said Hazlewood after the match.
"You can't really ease into a T20, you've got to hit the ground running so (I was) just using my skills and doing my change-up which I haven't done for a while.
"Test cricket's a bit different, you bash the top of off and bowl your bouncers but I was very happy with the way it went. The body felt really good."
The Strikers still made a formidable total of 6-176, thanks to a late rally from the super consistent Jon Wells and the butterfingered Sydney fielders but it wasn't on the small Coffs Harbour stadium, where the shortest boundary was just 58 metres.
Wells finished unbeaten on 40 to take his 227 runs at the obscene average of 113.50 after he was dropped by Daniel Hughes at 10.
The Sixers dropped four catches in the innings - including two sitters by Ban Dwarshuis at deep square in successive balls in the final over of the innings.
The umpiring in this season's Big Bash continues to leave fans wondering what is going on after Adelaide's Matt Short was run out for a diamond duck following a mix-up with Wells at the aptly named Big Banana end.
Short was given out by the third umpire after he failed to make it back to his crease but replays showed wicketkeeper Josh Philippe dropped the ball before whipping the bails off - meaning the batsmen should have been given a reprieve.
GREAT RUN CHASE
The Sixers made a tricky run-chase look almost easy as they coasted to victory with three balls to spare after a brilliant unbeaten half century from their electrifying opener Philippe.
The Steve Smith lookalike has already been tipped as a future international - possibly as soon as this year's T20 World Cup - and did his chances no harm after blasting 83 not out from 52 balls, featuring five boundaries and four monster sixes.
"When I hang out there long enough, it kind of starts happening and I guess the last few games maybe I got carried away too early and rushed through so it was nice to see it come off," said Philippe.
"Sometimes you just go out there and hit the first ball out the middle and you feel like 'I'm on' and it just happens and other times it doesn't. My biggest weakness is if often don't give myself a chance to find a way to get there, if that makes sense, I just go a little bit early but I felt very calm tonight and that's usually when I bat best."
Philippe shared an opening partnership of 72 with Justin Avendano who made a brisk 47 after being called into to replace Moises Henriques who returned to Sydney to be with his wife who is expecting their first child.
With the win, the Sixers joined the Melbourne Stars on the top of the table with 10 points while the Strikers remain third on seven points.
The Sixers' first venture into regional New South Wales was a runaway success.
Not only was the match sold out in advance, but the atmosphere inside the stadium was fantastic even after the 10,000 fans had queued for almost 1km before the gates opened.
The venues for next year's Big Bash are yet to be decided but with India touring - and likely to demand that no-one plays on the SCG for about two weeks around the New Year test - the Sixers may have to take one of their early home games on the road but can do so with plenty of confidence.