Philippe keeps Sydney Sixers at top after O’Keefe hauls in Sydney Thunder

Sydney (Cricinfo): Sydney Sixers stayed top of the table with a convincing victory in the first derby of the season against Sydney Thunder as Josh Philippe’s 24-ball half-century ensured they were always ahead in a rain-adjusted chase.

Alex Hales provided the Thunder with a flying start as he made a 29-ball half-century, but they lost their way against Steve O’ Keefe, who claimed career-best figures for the second time this season, and it needed a measured half-century from Daniel Sams to ensure the innings did not completely fall away.

After a heavy shower at the change of innings, the Sixers were left with a 14-over chase and Philippe put them on course by taking 23 off the second over from Jono Cook. During his innings, he became the leading scorer for the season, a tag that changed hands twice during the evening with Hales briefly in pole position.

Although things had slowed after a Hales-inspired charge, the Thunder were well placed at 2 for 85 in the tenth over. That changed in the space of three balls as Sam Billings picked out long-on and Hales clubbed to deep midwicket against O’Keefe. It meant there were two new batsmen in at the midway point, forcing the Thunder into a period of consolidation and they would end up holding back the Power Surge for the final two overs. O’Keefe then added Alex Ross, lbw missing a sweep, and finished with 3 for 15 from a spell that conceded just one boundary and included 12 dot balls. Jackson Bird’s role was also noteworthy; he picked up 1 for 23 in his four overs which meant the eight between him and O’Keefe went for just 38.

Philippe looks ready

After a couple of single-figure scores, it was normal service resumed for Philippe as he launched the Sixers’ chase by tucking into Cook with four fours and six in five deliveries. By the end of the reduced three-over powerplay, he had 31 off 11 balls and the Sixers were 0 for 41. After the six-over mark, he started to lose some of the strike as the chase got a bit tighter but was able to bring up a 24-ball fifty – the fastest of his BBL career. There are a lot of people wanting to bat at the top of the order for Australia in T20Is but it’s becoming difficult to see how much Philippe can be denied his chance. Perhaps the series against New Zealand in late February?

Last chance dropped

The wickets of James Vince and Daniel Hughes in the space of five balls gave the Thunder some hope and when Jordan Silk fell to the first delivery of the Power Surge – which was limited to one over – as he spliced Sams into the leg side the Sixers needed 32 off 23 balls. Two balls later, Dan Christian skied his first delivery into the off side but Ross could not hold over his shoulder as he ran back from inside the ring. In the next over from Nathan McAndrew, Christian launched two sixes and the game was done.

Hales starts, Sams finishes

It had all looked so promising for the Thunder early on as Hales showed his destructive power by taking 21 off the third over against former England team-mate Jake Ball which included two leg-side sixes. After briefly consolidating following the loss of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, another six, a skimming sweep off Lloyd Pope, took him to a 29-ball fifty. After the stuffing had been knocked out of the middle order, Sams nursed the innings to a stage where they could push hard in the final few overs although 24 from the last two – which were the Power Surge – was manageable for the Sixers. Sams’ resurgent batting form continued with his second fifty of the season, brought up with a boundary off the final ball after Carlos Braithwaite had managed three consecutive dots in the last over.