Retiring Sydney Sixers veteran Dan Christian admitted his emotions were 'still raw' after his side's shock defeat against the Brisbane Heat in the BBL finals on Thursday night. Christian's side went down in an upset four-wicket defeat to the Heat at the SCG after a batting masterclass from Brisbane quick Michael Neser guided the visitors home with 10 balls to spare.
Neser belted 48 not out as the Heat bounced back from being 3-10 and then 5-56, by chasing down the Sixers' paltry 9-116 on a tricky SCG wicket. The Heat were missing their own Test stars Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw, but Neser managed to bail them out of early trouble and into Saturday's decider against the Scorchers in Perth.
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For Christian it was a heartbreaking way to bow out of cricket, with Sydney regarded as favourites and in prime position at one stage to seal their place in Saturday's decider. Christian recently announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, sparking a wave of tributes from around the cricket world after declaring that this BBL season would be his last.
Speaking to fellow cricketer and Channel Seven commentator Trent Copeland after the game, the 39-year-old couldn't hide his emotion about bidding farewell to a sport he has dedicated so many years of his life to. Christian - who has played 405 matches for 18 different T20 teams - admitted he was still trying to deal with the significance of his retirement.
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“I suppose it’s still a little raw now that we’ve lost that game — we were looking forward to playing as well as we could and winning that and going back and trying to have another crack at the Scorchers and trying to win that title,” Christian said. “I have thought about retiring over the last couple of months or so. It’s been a pretty good run.
“The main thing is being able to catch up with people and say I haven’t got cricket on. I’m going to be able to catch up with family and friends and go to weddings and birthdays all those things I have missed out on for the last 20-odd years.
Even after reflecting on what retirement meant for him, the reality had not quite sunk in yet for the veteran allrounder. He added: “I suppose I’m going to have a couple of months now... or the rest of my life really, to reflect on my career.”
Christian told his Sydney Sixers teammates at training last month that he would finish up after the finals. Set to turn 40 later this year, he was seeking a ninth title in franchise cricket but ultimately fell short with the Sixers.
Christian is one of six players to have taken a hat-trick for Australia in one-day internationals. He achieved the feat as part of his career-best figures of 5-31 against Sri Lanka in 2012.
He also played over 400 T20s and is the only player to have scored more than 2000 runs and taken more than 90 wickets in the BBL. He earned man of the match honours when the Melbourne Renegades won their maiden BBL title in 2019.
Christian was denied a BBL fairytale finish on Thursday night when Spencer Johnson (3-28) removed the Sixers batter for seven runs with a length ball that careered into the wicket. That wicket came after Heat spinner spinner Matthew Kuhnemann caught Kurtis Patterson (19), before removing out-of-sorts opener Josh Philippe (16) and Sydney skipper Moises Henriques (four) in the space of two overs.
Michael Neser guides Heat home in shock win
Daniel Hughes, the Sixers' odd man out for most of the summer, top-scored with 23 for the home side but the 117-run victory target never seemed to be enough, despite the tricky nature of the SCG pitch. A win looked to be a distant prospect for the Heat after a shocking start to their chase but Neser's late cameo got Brisbane home with more than an over to spare and into the grand final against the Scorchers on Saturday.
"I was just fortunate that that came off," Neser told reporters. "I normally am quite nervous but it was potentially the last game of the season, so I just thought, it's all or nothing really."
With the game on an even keel late, Neser hit Hayden Kerr for four consecutive boundaries in an over that defined the game and sealed one of the great BBL upsets with 10 balls to spare. "We just seemed to take wickets at the right time and their batters didn't seem to get a roll on," Neser added.
The Heat found the boundary more easily than the Sixers early on, announcing their intention when Josh Brown hit Steve O'Keefe for six on consecutive deliveries. One of three replacements for the Heat's Test players, Sam Heazlett tried to sneak a single on a misfield but found himself run out to trigger a collapse. In the space of 21 balls, the Heat also lost Brown (20) and Nathan McSweeney (five), both caught behind by Philippe.
Losing more scalps was the only thing that could thwart the Heat when a run a ball was all that was required and Max Bryant, another of the reinforcements, forged a game-high 30-run partnership with Neser. Just as they were beginning to pull ahead with the largest partnership of the night, Bryant (11) sent the ball skyward in the power surge and was caught.
But Neser was undeterred and his 16 runs from four balls brought the equation squarely into the Heat's favour. When he slogged the ball past long on, he had the biggest score of his BBL career.
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