Steve Smith proved the sword was mightier than the bludgeon as he and Josh Philippe enabled Sydney Sixers to trump an Aaron Finch BBL century for Melbourne Renegades.
The seven-wicket win with eight balls to spare on Saturday at the SCG moves the finals-bound Sixers above Adelaide, although the Strikers can regain second spot on Sunday by beating Hobart.
Renegades skipper Finch slammed 109 from 68 balls to dominate their total of 175-5, after being sent into bat, but his effort was negated by Smith’s first BBL knock for six years. Smith marshalled the chase with aplomb, making an unbeaten 66 from 40 deliveries. The last-placed Renegades slumped to an 11th loss in 13 games after winning last year’s title.
“I’d rather get a duck than get a hundred and lose. It’s a pretty awful feeling, to be honest,” Finch said.
Former Australia captain Smith maintained his composure after Philippe (61) and Moises Henriques (2) exited in quick succession to give the Renegades brief hope. Smith snuffed that out to calm the nerves of the majority of the 23,587-strong crowd with his highest BBL score.
He struck seven fours and a six, but it was his smart placement of the ball into gaps that proved just as effective as Finch’s brute force, which produced seven sixes.
“He (Finch) is one of the blokes that, unlike me, is very strong and he can hit lots of sixes and he showed that tonight – he’s world class,” Smith said. “I like playing T20 cricket in Australia; it sort of suits the way I play – quite big grounds, hitting pockets; lots of running twos.”
Rising star Philippe, the Sixers’ leading run-scorer, smashed five fours and three sixes in his fourth half-century of the series. Dropped twice in one Cameron Boyce over in the 30s, his appearance, mannerisms and bag of strokes continue to generate comparisons with Smith.
“He’s got a tiny head like me so the boys give him me a bit of stick about that,” Smith joked. “That kid has got some serous talent and he showed that again today and he just let me get into my innings before I could start playing a few more shots and getting a bit more expansive.”
The Renegades were left to rue boundary rider Nathan McSweeney’s acrobatic, though unsuccessful, attempt to catch Smith on 33.
Australia ODI captain Finch, back from the three-match series in India, benefited from couple of dropped catches when on 39 and 62, but lamented a slow six-over period in which the Renegades scored just 26 runs.
The Sixers’ English paceman Tom Curran signed off with 3-27 in his final game, giving him 22 wickets for the series.