Sixers close in on top-two BBL finish

Adrian Warren |

Sixers’ Steve O’Keefe enjoys taking another wicket in his 4-18 spell that helped win the BBL derby.
Sixers’ Steve O’Keefe enjoys taking another wicket in his 4-18 spell that helped win the BBL derby.

Sydney Sixers are closing in on a top-two BBL placing for a third straight year, but spin bowling weapon Steve O’Keefe says it may well be his final campaign.

A 60-run thrashing of local rivals Sydney Thunder on Saturday lifted the Sixers above their city rivals and into second on net run rate – and they have a game in hand.

The Sixers’ last two matches are against the Adelaide Strikers at Adelaide Oval on Monday and Brisbane Heat at the Gabba two days later.

Thunder’s one remaining fixture is against Melbourne Renegades at the MCG on Wednesday.

The ladder-leading Perth Scorchers, are seven points clear of the two Sydney franchises and have a seemingly unbreakable grip on top spot.

The top two teams advance to the qualifier and the losers get a second chance, the only instance when a team defeated in the finals remains alive in the competition.

Sydney finished second two seasons ago and first last summer but didn’t need a second chance in either campaign, as they won the qualifier both times and earned a few extra days off.

“You just want to give yourself that second roll of the dice if you need it going into the big finals,” O’Keefe said.

‘In the last two years, we’ve finished in the top two, so it certainly helps with a bit of extra time off if you win that first game.”

O’Keefe won player of the match honours on Saturday with his match-turning spell of 4-18 off four overs.

He claimed the prize scalp of English star Alex Hales with the first ball of his stint and twice took two wickets in an over to derail Thunder’s pursuit of 198 for victory.

The 37-year-old tweaker has two four-wicket hauls this season and has gone for a measly 5.86 per over.

Yet calf and hand injuries have limited him to playing just seven out of 12 games.

“The body is feeling old, fat and slow, sore,” O’Keefe said.

“I think it will be highly unlikely I’ll go around again next year.”

The Sixers’ success on Saturday was set up by strong batting from Josh Philippe (57 off 39), Daniel Hughes (66 off 48) and captain Moises Henriques (47 not out off 27).

Philippe, who had three ducks in his last four innings, returned to the strong form he displayed earlier in the competition and helped lift the Sixers after they scored just eight runs from their first four powerplay overs.

“This innings from Phillipe will go a long way towards helping him become a much better player,” former Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said on Fox Cricket.

“If things weren’t going his way he had to fight, he had to find a way and in the end the maturity he showed to get to 57 off 39 balls, he was just all class.”

The local derby produced some feisty moments with Thunder’s Pakistan paceman Mohammed Hasnain incurring the wrath of both Hughes and Henriques.

Hughes was annoyed when Hasnain threw the ball at the stumps when he had his back turned and Henriques seemingly questioned the paceman’s action by saying, “Nice throw, nice throw mate.”