Sixers prevail in BBL classic at Coffs Harbour
BBL CRICKET: The Sydney Sixers and Adelaide Strikers produced a high-scoring classic from the top drawer for the first Big Bash League match ever played on the North Coast.
The Sixers prevailed in an epic run chase with a total of 356 runs scored on the untested playing surface at C'Ex International Stadium, Coffs Harbour.
The official crowd of 9,834 was the most for a cricket match and second biggest ever at the venue, behind the 10,838 who attended the 2013 NRL trial between South Rabbitohs and Newcastle Knights.
The high-scoring affair was the perfect advertisement for the regional host venue.
"I couldn't speak highly enough of the ground itself," Sydney Sixers batsan Jordan Silk said. "The outfield was terrific, pitch was fantastic.
"It was on par with a lot of the first class facilities we've played at.
"For two teams to make 175 plus is what you're after in T20 cricket."
The Strikers batted first and jumped out of the blocks with English import Phil Salt blasting 25 off 13 balls before Test bowler Josh Hazlewood (1 for 18 off 4) steadied the ship for the Sixers in his return from injury.
A classy knock from Jono Wells (40no off 28) and cameos from Michael Neser (25 off 15) and Rashid Khan (14no off 6) bumped the Strikers' total up to 6 for 176 off their 20 overs.
The run chase, led by rising star Josh Phillippe (83no off 52), always looked an uphill battle until 21 runs from Neser's penultimate over tipped the match in the Sixers' favour. Tom Curran (10no off 3) smashed a straight six to wrap up victory with three balls to spare.
Coutts Crossing Cricket Club president and GDSC Premier League player Andrew McLachlan and his family travelled down the highway from Grafton to be enjoy the buzzing atmosphere.
Apart from taking 45 minutes to get into the venue, McLachlan could not fault the experience.
"If we don't support events like this they're never going to come back, so it was great to see 10,000 people down there including a huge amount of Grafton people," McLachlan said.
"It was an awesome atmosphere. We had a nice night on the hill, with plenty for the kids to do.
"In my working life, I don't get the chance to travel away to watch cricket games anymore, so it was nice to get to see the guys you see on TV.
"All the kids were all so enthralled with the whole night. It's a chance they don't get very often, so it was awesome to see the time and effort the players put in afterwards.
"The players had a great attitude towards it."
As for the prospect of facing up to the likes of Hazlewood and co?
"Watching those bowlers last night, I don't think too many of our guys would want to face up to that," he said.
Silk said it was obvious from the response from the crowd how much it meant to the region to host such a major sporting event.
"To bring a fixture up here was really special, and you could tell even after the game how pumped everyone was," Silk said. "We were back signing autographs for the kids for ages after the game.
"It's something the Big Bash has done really well in the last few years to take games out to regional areas."
The win cemented the Sixers' second-placed position on the BBL09 ladder with five wins from seven matches.
The squad flew out of Coffs Harbour on Monday morning via Sydney to Adelaide, where they will face a rematch with the Strikers on their home turf at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday night.
"We're in a great place," Silk said. "If we can manage to knock them off again it will really set us up for a finals berth.
"But they're back in front of their home fans on a ground they play really good at. They're a quality outfit. We're two teams that I think will feature heavily at the end of the year and playing with a fair bit of confidence, so it'll be another good game."