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Khan strikes to inflict more pain on Thunder

Cricket

Western Sydney was battered by the searing summer heat yesterday, but its BBL side’s finals prospects have cooled considerably after Rashid Khan starred in Adelaide Strikers’ 25-run win at Spotless Stadium.

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The Afghani import took two wickets for the fifth straight game to underline his status as one of the most influential imports in this season’s tournament.

While the mercury dropped from 47 degrees to a more bearable 29 by game start, Thunder still felt the heat.

A late-innings onslaught from Khan (16 off 6) and South African Colin Ingram (48 off 31) boosted the Strikers to 7-158 as the visitors pummelled 44 off the final three overs.

The Thunder’s lack of batting depth and power hitting was exposed as they mustered just 9-133.

Adelaide joined the logjam at the top of the ladder, where the Strikers, Melbourne Renegades, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers have all banked eight points.

The Thunder suffered a fourth loss in six games and on yesterday’s performance look unlikely to mount a finals charge, although captain Shane Watson maintains his side can still make the top four, as it farewells one key batsman and prepares to welcome back two.more.

The drubbing left them four points behind fourth-placed Perth, who they host in their next match on Thursday.

Successive losses have left them in a precarious position.

Perth play another fixture before Thursday’s encounter at Spotless Stadium, which looms as a non-negotiable must-win match for Thunder, as personnel changes loom.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler will join the England one-day side which starts their five-match one-day series against Australia next weekend.

Buttler, who is second in the Thunder run aggregates with 202 at 33, will be replaced by compatriot James Vince.

The 26-year-old Englishman has struggled in the Ashes series, scoring 242 runs at 26.88 with two fifties in nine innings.

He has averaged 32.60 in five T20 internationals and last summer scored 74 runs at 24.66 in three BBL games for Thunder.

Also returning to the Thunder fold is Test batsman Usman Khawaja, who will be coming off a big hundred in the final Ashes match.

Khawaja plundered 345 runs at an average of 172.50, with two fifties and two centuries from his four innings, when he last played for Thunder in 2015-16.

“James Vince is a high-quality T20 player and with Uzzy coming back it means we will bat a little deeper,” Watson said.

They will add lustre to a Thunder battling line-up which has failed to fire on a consistent basis in this season’s tournament.

Watson, his side’s most prolific batsmen this season, felt his bowlers allowed Adelaide to get 15 runs too many after they smashed 44 of their last three overs.

However, he was pleased with how they had performed up until that point, with the spinners doing especially well.

“We’re not far away, it’s not like we’re playing bad cricket,” Watson said.

“If we can win those key moments, there’s no doubt we can build momentum and finish off very strongly.”

Veteran Ben Rohrer (29 off 13) clobbered 23 off the 18th over, bowled by Ben Laughlin, but it wasn’t enough against a disciplined Strikers attack.

Leggie Khan (2-21) has emerged as one of the excitement packages of BBL07 and the 19-year-old wove some more bowling magic.

He bowled in-form English opener Buttler (21 off 21) and helped slow the home side’s chase down to a crawl after they made a decent start.

“It was the key wicket, that’s what I was brought on for, to take his wicket,” Khan said.

“I was really happy for that wicket because he’s a destructive batsman.”

Thunder’s other top order batsmen Kurtis Patterson (29 off 36) and captain Watson (14 off 16) were unable to best an attack including Khan, Michael Neser (3-29) and Peter Siddle (2-13).

After hitting six fours and a six in their powerplay overs, the Thunder could muster just two boundaries in the next ten prior to Rohrer’s late cameo.

“They bowled nicely, they used the conditions well and apart from Ben Rohrer, we weren’t really able to get going,” Watson lamented.

Coming off a rapid-fire 66 in his last game, Ingram belted four sixes and two fours for the Strikers.

Ingram survived a couple of strong lbw appeals, but gave their innings some much-needed momentum after Alex Carey (34 off 28) was the only Striker to get going in the first ten overs.

Spinners Fawad Ahmed (3-31) and Chris Green (1-22) were the Thunder’s most effective bowlers.

-AAP 

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