‘What was he thinking?’ Ponting, fans lay into Hurricanes skipper for ‘utter s–tshow’ in BBL final-ball thriller
The Brisbane Heat’s undefeated run in BBL13 remains alive – but it wasn’t without drama aplenty.
Needing to defend three off the final ball against the Hobart Hurricanes, who had mounted a stirring rearguard from 3/7 chasing 118 thanks to Nikhil Chaudhary’s swashbuckling 55, the visitors would fall short by a solitary run to spark jubilation at the Gabba.
Hurricanes captain Nathan Ellis could only bunt a Paul Walter full toss straight to opposing skipper Colin Munro at mid-off, with teammate Paddy Dooley then run out at the striker’s end in pursuit of a second run to tie the scores.
As the Heat players celebrated, however, Australian cricket legend and proud Tasmanian Ricky Ponting wasn’t impressed with Ellis’ batting at the crucial stage.
Having come to the crease following Chaudhary’s dismissal midway through the final over with the Hurricanes needing five from the final three balls, the tailender could only manage a pair of singles.
“I’m still not sure what Nathan Ellis was doing,” Ponting said on Channel 7 immediately following the match.
“What was he thinking, the two balls that he faced in the last over? The last ball of the game was a slower ball, knee-high full toss that he basically blocked to mid-off inside the circle.”
Fans were equally quick to rip into Ellis in the immediate aftermath, with criticism for both Ellis’ inability to put Walter’s full toss away, as well as for appearing to give up on the match while running through for the single and not even attempting a second run that would have tied the scores, with Dooley left stranded mid-pitch having set off for the second at the striker’s end only to see Ellis yet to turn around at the other end.
The thrilling win leaves the Heat with an unblemished 6-0 record across their eight BBL matches this season, with two other matches washed out.
They are two games clear of the second-placed Sydney Sixers, but with two games to come against the third-placed Perth Scorchers, who sit just five competition points behind, the Heat will likely need to win one more match to secure top spot and a home Qualifier final on January 19.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will rue a missed opportunity to move back into the top four; sitting fifth, a win behind the Melbourne Stars, they could possibly need to win all three of their remaining matches against the Adelaide Strikers (twice) and the Stars to sneak into the finals.
Prior to the final-over chaos, the victory was set up by a superb opening spell from player of the match and tournament leading wicket-taker Xavier Bartlett, who claimed the wickets of Mac Wright (0) and Sam Hain (0) with successive balls in his first over to leave the Hurricanes reeling, to start a spell of 3/30 from his four overs.
Captain Munro’s 47-ball 56 to start the innings proved invaluable on a tacky Gabba wicket, with the Heat’s seemingly below-par total of 132 proving to be enough – just.
A brief spell of rain early in the Hurricanes’ innings saw the requirement adjusted to 118 from 16 overs, which looked unlikely when Corey Anderson was bowled by Bartlett to leave the visitors 4/22.
That they even got close was down to Chaudhary, the one-time Indian rising star turned Queensland grade cricketer continuing his rise to stardom in BBL13 with a maiden tournament half-century, brought up in style with a towering six over deep mid-wicket to start the final over.
Ending on 55 off 38 balls with two sixes, Chaudhary also successfully engaged in a war of words with Heat quick Spencer Johnson, who responded by twice bouncing the 27-year old, only to be no-balled for bowling a second short ball over shoulder height for the over.
Before his batting disappointments, Ellis was key as the Hurricanes bowling attack restricted the Heat, taking 2/23 from his four overs alongside 3/19 from English import Chris Jordan as the hosts’ innings never got going.