Sydney Thunder coach Shane Bond said his team’s ability to win the pressure moments in their opening two knockout finals matches has galvanised them for Thursday’s KFC Big Bash League’s sudden death Challenger Final against the Melbourne Stars.
The winner will progress to Saturday’s title decider against the Sydney Sixers at the SCG, and Bond was confident his team had developed the edge needed to execute their best game under pressure.
“I’m proud of the way the boys have gone about it,” said Bond of Thunder’s performances in their opening two finals. “The pressure moments in games... like we had in Adelaide... could easily have gone the other way, but the boys stood up.
“Just as they have all season, they were very clear and calm about what we wanted to do. However, we’re probably executing it better now than we did at the start of the competition.”
Bond said his only expectation for Thursday’s elimination match at the MCG - against the team that finished the regular season in first place - was for his players to repeat the performances that allowed them to topple Hobart and then Adelaide after scraping into the finals in fifth place.
“If we go out and play at our best - and continue to do things like bowl the way we have done - I have no doubt we’ll be competitive,” he said. “We’ve talked all season about how we’ve wanted to do things and it’s all clicked into gear.
“We’re happy to be at the pointy end of the season, especially when we’ve had two wins in a knockout stage and three [victories] in a row.
“Everyone is confident about what they’re doing... the MCG is a fantastic place to play... and the prospect of playing in an all-Sydney final is great. I’m very excited, and I know the boys are as well.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Gilkes has been included in the 13-player squad as wicketkeeper Jay Lenton’s ‘shadow’ due to Lenton and his wife Gemma expecting the birth of their first child ‘any day’.
“Jay really wants to play, he’s been sensational for us since he was given his chance behind the stumps,” said Bond.
“We’ll give him every chance to play, but his priorities are with his family and with what’s happening there... and while he’s keen to play, there’s just some things that are out of your hands and even more important.”
Sydney Thunder BBL Squad vs Stars, 6 February at MCG
Callum Ferguson (C) (12)
Jonathan Cook (50)
Brendan Doggett (35)
Matt Gilkes (22)
Alex Hales (6)
Usman Khawaja (18)
Jay Lenton (70)
Nathan McAndrew (44)
Chris Morris (24)
Arjun Nair (7)
Alex Ross (49)
Daniel Sams (60)
Chris Tremain (20)
The Challenger Final will be broadcast live on Fox Cricket and 7 from 7:40pm AEDT on Thursday 6 February, with radio coverage from ABC Grandstand.