BEFORE last night, the Sydney Thunder had never even made the KFC T20 Big Bash League finals.
Now they are champions.
Sportsbet.com.au had the hopes of the Thunder winning the title as pie in the sky stuff before a ball had been bowled this summer.
They were rated last on the line of betting at $12 pre-tournament, with the reigning title holders Perth Scorchers favourite at $4.50, joined by the Melbourne Stars.
But the Thunder had other ideas, sneaking into the four and then rolling past the Adelaide Lightning to set up a date with the Stars.
And it turned into a fairy tale of the highest order.
The team no one gave a chance at the start of the season, making a mockery of the predictions and sending off Australian cricket legend Mike Hussey in the best way possible.
Hussey, in his last game of competitive cricket on Australian soil, won the toss and sent the Stars in to bat in front of a huge turn out at the home of cricket, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It looked like a dicey decision as ageless English gun Kevin Pietersen set about picking apart the Thunder’s bowling attack.
At the crease early after opener Marcus Stoinis fell for just five, Pietersen hammered 74 of 39 balls at a strike rate of nearly 190, his innings featuring four fours and five sixes, backing up his superb half century in the semi final.
He put on 44 with fellow Englishman Luke Wright (23 off 24) to help set up the innings, with captain David Hussey next best with 21 off 14 balls (two fours and a six).
That set a target of 9/176 for Sydney to chase.
For the Thunder, Shane Watson and Chris Green nabbed two wickets each.
In reply, it was all about Ussie as the world’s most in form T20 batsman, Usman Khawaja teed off from the get go, surviving two massive LBW shouts to continue his brilliant Big Bash form with 70 off just 40 balls.
Khawaja ends the BBL with 345 runs in four innings, including two tons. Three of those four were decisive in the matches’ results.
It is a travesty that he is not in the Australian World T20 squad to tour India in March.
His innings included five fours and three sixes as he and South African Jacques Kallis (28 off 27) set about making large in roads into the total.
That pair put on 86 and the Stars looked shot. But David Hussey – who had not bowled since the third incarnation of the Big Bash, brought himself on and had an immediate impact, his long hop skewing off the thick edge of Khawaja’s bat to backward point. There was room for sentiment too, with Hussey bowling at the same time his brother Mike was batting.
Stoinis – who rarely bowled more than two overs in any game in the Big Bash – all of a sudden looked like a strike bowler, snaring 3/30 off his four overs and bringing his side back into the game.
But old head Ben Rohrer helped the Thunder steady the ship, giving them a three wicket win with three balls to spare, courtesy of a massive straight drive six that brought the Sydney score to 7/181.
Hussey, who walked out to bat to a guard of honour from the Stars players – and a standing ovation from the MCG fans – was struck by the victory.
“It feels fantastic, what a performance,” Hussey said immediately after the match.
“I can’t really believe it.
“We’ve actually done it.
“We’ve won the Big Bash.
Hussey, at 40, bows out still among the fittest players in the game, and having cracked
On the season the bookies were close with some of their odds, but off the mark on others.
The Stars and Scorchers were the favourites and both made finals. But the Strikers and Thunder were both outsiders, one finishing on top, the other creeping in and making a big splash.
As far as the top batsman was concerned, Renegades master blaster Chris Gayle stood alone as the $10 favourite, but he managed a number of entertaining starts – and one very controversial interview – finishing eighth on the list with 260 runs.
If you backed Brisbane Heat power hitter Chris Lynn, then you should take a bow.
You will also probably be rolling in the dough, his odds of $17 to top the charts before the tournament started would have produced some great returns for astute (or lucky) punters. He was named player of the tournament yesterday.
The bookies are yet to release odds on next year’s tournament, but you can bet the Thunder won’t be rank outsiders when a market is finally framed.
Odds before the start of the tournament
KFC T20 Big Bash League winner
Perth Scorchers ($4.50) – Finished third, lost in semi final
Melbourne Stars ($4.50) – Finished second, lost in grand final
Melbourne Renegades ($6) – Finished fifth, missed finals
Sydney Sixers ($7.50) – Finished last, missed finals
Hobart Hurricanes ($9) – Finished second last, missed finals
Adelaide Strikers ($9) – Finished on top, lost in semi final
Brisbane Heat ($11) – Finished sixth, missed finals
Sydney Thunder ($12) – Finished fourth, won grand final
Top Tournament Runscorer
Chris Gayle ($10) – eighth leading run scorer, 260 runs
Kevin Pietersen ($11) – third leading run scorer, 323 runs
Kumar Sangakkara ($13)
Michael Klinger ($13) – sixth leading run scorer, 285 runs
Aaron Finch ($15)
Luke Wright ($17) – seventh leading run scorer, 280 runs
Chris Lynn ($17) – Leading run scorer, 378 runs
Ben Dunk ($17)
Lendl Simmons ($17)
Nic Maddinson ($17)
Shane Watson ($17)
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