Dane van Niekerk in action. © WICB

In a much anticipated New Years Eve clash against the Adelaide Strikers at Adelaide Oval, Sydney Sixers looked to repeat the result of their last encounter against this opposition. They managed to do so, winning by a narrow eight run margin.

Batting first, Alyssa Healy got the Sixers off to a flier of a start. She smashed 23 off 15 balls, hitting three fours and a six in the process, before Sophie Devine stormed in to dismantle her stumps. Skipper Ellyse Perry then combined for 93-run partnership with Ashleigh Gardner. Perry made her way to a run-a-ball 47, but was caught on the boundary looking to accelerate.

At the beginning of the seventeenth over, Sixers looked set to post an imposing total at 124-2. The Strikers though pulled back well. Devine had Gardner caught behind for 49 off 38 and in the following over, Amanda Jade Wellington had Sara McGlashan stumped. Wickets fell for the Sixers in three consecutive overs, stemming the runs. They ended their 20 overs below what they would have hoped, posting 147-4.

For the Strikers, Devine and Wellington took two wickets each. Sarah Coyte also bowled well, conceding just 18 runs off her four overs.

Sixers struck early with Perry dismissing Devine in the second over. Suzie Bates then showed her class by taking 13 runs off Gardner’s over, smashing three fours. However, soon afterwards, two wickets fell in quick succession for the Strikers. Marizanne Kapp bowled Tabatha Saville and Dane van Niekerk- sporting a magenta headband- had Bridget Patterson stumped.

Tahlia McGrath then strode to the crease. She blasted 45 off 26 including three massive sixes and five fours. McGrath combined with her skipper for a 67-run partnership to keep alive Strikers’ hopes of defeating the Sixers for the first time. Sixers, desperate for a breakthrough, took a huge risk and brought 15-year-old Hayley Silver-Holmes into the attack. McGrath sent her for a boundary, then a six, but was caught going for one shot too many. In the next over, Bates fell for 60 off 58, the headband doing wonders for van Niekerk.

After these two wickets fell, the Strikers just could not exploit the platform that had been set. With 20 required of the last two overs, Megan Schutt and Tegan McPharlin were at the crease. Erin Burns conceded just five runs and took two wickets, before Kapp was brought in to bowl the last one. In the end, the Strikers fell nine runs short.

What was particularly impressive about the Sixers bowling performance was how even after an expensive over, the next bowler did well to restrict. For example, after Lauren Cheatle went for 13 runs, van Niekerk conceded just one off the next one. She was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of 2-12 off her allotted overs and was named Player-of-the-Match. Kapp and Burns took two wickets as well.

The Sixers remained calm throughout the match, even when they were being hit to all parts of the ground. They fielded well and held their nerves to take the chances that came their way, which led them to victory.

Sixers now sit comfortably at the top of the table, four points clear of the next team. Strikers though, find themselves at number seven with their hopes for the knockouts all but dashed.