Carmichael and Brown achieve tense victory to keep Sixers’ Finals hopes alive

Alastair Cook announces retirement from professional cricket

Sydney Sixers 177 for 4 (Gardner 36, Burns 35, Voll 2-29) beat Brisbane Heat 176 for 7 (Kerr 65, du Preez 42, Perry 3-40) by six wickets

Mathilda Carmichael and Maitlan Brown produced a stirring partnership at the death to lead the Sydney Sixers past the Brisbane Heat and keep their WBBL finals hopes alive.

Chasing 177 at the Allan Border Field, the Sixers started the chase strongly but still needed 38 runs off the last four overs. The game changed when Carmichael and Brown scored 22 runs thanks to an overload of energy. Needing seven runs in the last over, Carmichael and Brown pushed left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen for one and two as the Sixers cruised to a tense victory with a ball to spare.

The Sixers, last season’s runners-up, are now just two points behind the fourth-placed Heat, who could have sealed a spot in the finals with a win.

With their slim finals hopes on the line, the Sixers decided to shoot first in overcast conditions and it initially seemed like a wise move. In a frenetic start, Heat opener Grace Harris was almost run out on the first ball of the innings before succumbing on the next delivery to the strong bounce of left-arm quick Lauren Cheatle. Cheatle, who will be part of Australia’s upcoming tour of India, bowled superbly with the new ball and exploited a surface that produced a bounce similar to that of a tennis ball.

Heat struggled to adapt to the conditions and their inability to hit boundaries on the powerplay resulted in Bess Heath and Georgia Redmayne meekly bowling full tosses.

At 34 for 3, Heat desperately needed a partnership and Amelia Kerr and Mignon du Preez steadied the ship. Kerr started by breaking Heat’s shackles and targeted Ashleigh Gardner with well-executed sweep shots.

They began to accelerate in the backfield with du Preez hitting closer Ellyse Perry on the ground in the 14th to record the Heat’s first six innings.

Ellyse Perry Took 3 Of 40

Ellyse Perry took 3 of 40fake images

But Perry had his revenge when he latched on to a strong return catch to end du Preez’s 42 off 27 balls. The wicket failed to stop Kerr, who put his foot down on the surge and smashed left-arm spinner Linsey Smith for four consecutive boundaries in the 17th over.

Instead of hitting hard, Kerr focused on positioning as he deftly unleashed a succession of shots that punched holes in the offside.

Kerr, who had made just 62 runs in her last five innings, surpassed her half-century along the way, while batsman Charli Knott made 29 off 10 balls in the end. The pressure was on the Sixers’ top order, which had to stop seamer Nicola Hancock’s wild swing.

They got lucky when Jonassen bowled Perry in the first over. She appeared to make the Heat pay when Perry hit Knott’s spin for 18 runs in the next over in an ominous sign.

But in the third, Perry became trapped behind after driving loosely, prompting the arrival of Suzie Bates. A couple of strong hits pushed her over 20 for the third time this season, but she couldn’t keep going and she fell to Jonassen with 26.

Like Bates, Erin Burns has had a poor season and her highlights are limited to spectacular fielding. She bowled the spinners over deep midwicket to devastating effect and combined them in a 61-run partnership with Gardner.

Momentum was swinging toward the Sixers with their cause aided by Kerr’s five-run penalty for catching a return throw with the towel he was using to dry the ball.

Burns and Gardner holed out in the space of three deliveries before Carmichael and Brown’s 51-run partnership gave life to the Sixers’ season.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth.