Photo Credit: Sydney Thunder
Sydney Thunder is preparing to oppose club legend and foundation player, Usman Khawaja, in tomorrow’s KFC Big Bash League Final – The Eliminator – against the Brisbane Heat at Sydney Showground Stadium, starting at 7.15pm.
Khawaja, who has starred for the Australia Test team this summer, left Thunder
for the Heat at the end of last season to be closer to his Brisbane-based family throughout the BBL tournament.
Nevertheless, Khawaja – a proud product of western Sydney – left an enduring legacy at Thunder.
Besides boasting two centuries and 10 half-centuries among the 1818 runs he scored while playing in Thunder’s green battle colours, Khawaja is remembered as a positive influence on the careers of many of the players in the Trevor Bayliss-coached squad.
While vice-captain Alex Ross made it clear Khawaja will always be a much-loved figure at Thunder, he conceded there’d be no time for sentiment when Khawaja took strike for the Heat.
“Usman is a world class figure, and he’s friends with everyone at Thunder,” said Ross. “However, it would be great to get him out cheaply to ensure he doesn’t score any runs at Sydney Showground Stadium and put us under pressure.
“He’s a class player, and it will be a great experience to play against him.”
After Thunder’s ‘roller coaster’ ride of a season, Ross believed that by qualifying for the Finals series the team had proven it posessed both resilience and the ability to win tough matches.
“As Chris Green said after last night’s win at the MCG, the scrappiness in which we played against the Melbourne Stars was important because there’ll likely be some scrappy Finals matches with a few of the wickets teams will play on,”
“Belief is a huge part of a tournament like the BBL, as is sticking together in the tough times. We’ve been relatively inconsistent, but all it takes now is four games for us to win the competition – something we’ve already done this season.
“It’s exciting to be in the final – you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
Ross said he and his teammates were buoyed by the prospect of playing a final in front of a packed Sydney Showground Stadium, which was painted green the last time Thunder played there and 20,864 fans – the eighth highest attendance for a sporting event at the venue – turned out to watch the Sydney Smash.
“Playing a final in front of a packed Sydney Showground Stadium would be amazing,” said Ross.
“The last time we played there it was a sell-out. The noise was amazing, and it’d be special to win a final there in front of Thunder Nation.”
Meanwhile, right-arm fast bowler Ryan Hadley, will join the squad tomorrow as a Local Replacement Player for Brendan Doggett. The popular Doggett will unfortunately miss the rest of the BBL season due to an elbow injury.
Squad for Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
Ben Cutting, Joel Davies, Oliver Davies, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green (c), Ryan Hadley, Baxter Holt, Nathan McAndrew, Blake Nikitaras, Ross Pawson, Usman Qadir, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha, David Warner, Sam Whiteman.
Sydney Thunder-Brisbane Heat is set to begin at 7.15pm (AEDT) and will be broadcast live on Channel 7, Fox Cricket and Kayo
Sydney Thunder BBL|12 Squad
Head Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Contracted Players: Ben Cutting, Joel Davies, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Toby Gray, Chris Green, Alex Hales, Baxter Holt, Nathan McAndrew, Blake Nikitaras, Ross Pawson, Usman Qadir, Alex Ross, Rilee Rossouw, Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, David Warner, Sam Whiteman.