09 February 2020

Keep calm: Nerve-free Phillipe lauds BBL triumph

Facing the reality of having not won a Big Bash League title in eight seasons, the Sydney Sixers had cause for concern when being sent into bat by the Melbourne Stars in a rain-affected BBL09 decider.

With the start of play pushed back an hour to 8.15pm local time – and then a further 10 minutes to 8.25pm as rain circled the SCG – players watched and waited as nerves began to build in both camps.

Avoiding the anxiety to craft an innings worthy of earning Player of the Match honours, Sixers opening batsman Josh Phillipe believes the ‘rollercoaster’ lead-up to Saturday’s decider proved to help his side’s cause of claiming a second Big Bash League title –  the franchise’s first since the competition’s inaugural season.

“When you’re not expecting to play, you’re not terribly nervous. I was actually, surprisingly, incredibly calm,” Phillipe told reporters following his staring innings of 52 runs off 29 balls.

“It’s right at the top. I can’t remember the last time I won a grand final or even played in one.

“But this is definitely the highlight. Hopefully there’s a few more to come.”

Phillipe defied a sluggish first over to race to 11 not-out at the end of two.

Opening partner James Vince came and went for just two runs (1-15), which saw Steve Smith arrive at the crease.

Phillipe said he was intent on preventing an early collapse.

“I was really keen to try and keep the game moving, but I thought if I could hang in there and see it deep … I thought we could get to a total which we could defend,” the 22-year-old said.

“My game’s developed so much in the past year, I’m really learning how to handle myself in pressure situations. I’ve had a few games this year where I haven’t [been mature] and I’ve gotten out, and it’s really cost us.

“A few of them (innings) really stuck in the back of my mind … I just knew that if I was out there towards the backend, it’s a funny thing. It gets a little bit easier… you might get a bit of luck.”

The victory over the Stars was the Sixers’ fifth-consecutive win to round out the tournament, and their third over ‘Team Green’ inside 19 days.

Phillipe’s innings lead the Sixers to 5-116 at the end of their 12 overs, a mountain all too steep for the Stars to climb in response.

Test spinner Nathan Lyon snared the prized wicket of Marcus Stoinis for 10 runs (1-10) in the Stars’ first over, before Nic Maddinson was dismissed soon after by paceman Josh Hazelwood for nought.

Veteran spinner Steve O’Keefe sent the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell back to the pavilion with just five runs next to his name to leave the Stars reeling at 3-18 inside three overs.

“I thought our bowlers were outstanding today, we set the tone early getting (Stoinis, Maxwell and Handscomb) all out in the first five overs,” Phillipe said.

“From there, we were massively on top. We held our nerves and really bowled well.”

Winning through the qualifying final and earning the right to host the decider at the SCG, the Sixers would have been deemed champions if conditions were judged unsafe for play on Saturday.

“Looking at the forecast over the last few days, we probably thought that (the rain) was just going to keep getting worse. We thought we probably weren’t going to get on at all,” Phillipe said of the 12-over triumph.

“But that’s not how we wanted to do it. We really wanted to play, we were all so keen to get out there and to get the job done in front of our home crowd.”

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