Sixers In A Spin Over Absentees

Stephen O'Keefe looking to make miraculous return for Sixers. Picture:
He has been in a sling for the past couple of weeks, but left-arm tweaker Stephen O’Keefe is racing against the clock to make a miraculous comeback in Wednesday night’s T20 Big Bash 2nd Semi-final against the Perth Scorchers . The Sydney Sixers spinner dislocated his right shoulder against Sydney Thunder less than two weeks back, and it seems inevitable the joint will require surgery, but he has been named in his team’s 13-man squad for the match at the SCG.

Without O’Keefe, the Sixers would go in to the match with a threadbare slow bowling line-up with Marcus North – who has bowled just nine economical overs in seven matches – the only realistic choice to roll his arm over on the traditionally spin-friendly wicket. There is no doubt Sydney’s strength lies in its pace arsenal, though, with the vital inclusions of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood after both played in Australia’s 3-0 whitewash of England in the international T20 series. Starc took 1/8 off 2.2 overs in the final match of the series on the back of a return of 1/19 off four in game two, while Hazlewood picked up a bag of four wickets in the eight-wicket win at the MCG last Friday night.

While Sydney struggles to cobble together a bowling line-up, Perth will more than likely have to drop one of its pacemen for the semi. Brad Hogg and Michael Beer are both likely to play, which means one of speedster Pat Cummins , import Alfonso Thomas , and lanky left-armer Jason Behrendorff will miss out. It’s hard to see the latter getting the boot given he ripped through the Sixers’ top-order collecting 3/21 off four overs when the Scorchers beat the Sixers at the SCG earlier this season in the first ‘Super Over’ of the Big Bash. Thomas has been restricted by a back injury this season picking up just two wickets in six matches, while Cummins has gone for almost ten an over in two starts since he returned from a stress fracture to his back.

The Scorchers have been up and down with the bat this season – particularly in the team’s insipid 20-run loss to an understrength Stars line-up last start – but one player who wasn’t expected to make much of an impact this tournament was opener Craig Simmons . He has failed with the bat on four occasions making a total of 19 runs, but his extraordinary century off just 39 balls against Adelaide last month will have Sydney on notice. He was bowled second ball by Brett Lee when the teams last met, but he will be guaranteed a start with Shaun Marsh out.

While Marsh has a calf injury which kept him out of the tour to South Africa, the Sixers have lost Steve Smith, Moises Henriques, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon to international duty. They do get Englishmen Michael Lumb and Ravi Bopara back, while the Scorchers have hard-hitting paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile back in orange after some impressive efforts for Australia.

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