When Mike Hussey and Jacques Kallis began playing senior cricket Twenty20 wasn’t even thought of as a format. Yet what was designed as a young man’s game to attract a new audience was on Sunday night set alight by a pair of 39-year-olds who in the old days would have their feet up by now. As it happened: Sydney Thunder v Brisbane Heat
Hussey (98 from 60 balls) and Kallis (97 not out from 55) were a sight to behold to get Sydney Thunder, the laughing stock of the Big Bash League in the past few seasons, off to a flyer with a 56-run win.
Their opponents, Brisbane Heat, were set a mammoth target of 209 thanks to a jaw-dropping 160-run opening stand between the veteran openers and there was no coming back from there thanks in no small part to the impressive Gurinder Sandhu (3-19) and Andrew McDonald (3-20).
The BBL is well removed from their Test heyday but Hussey and Kallis in full flight were thrilling, the duo bludgeoning 13 sixes between them. Both feature only on the T20 circuit these days and hadn’t played since the Champions League in September but didn’t look remotely rusty, with the ageless Hussey offering a reminder of how valuable he could still be to Australian cricket had he not retired from international cricket two summers ago.
“What’s Mike Hussey doing over February & March 2015 #WorldCup” asked former World Cup winning Tom Moody on social media, and it was a fair question as the Thunder’s captain showed he could doubtless still cut it.
Kallis, in his first outing in the franchise’s electric green, at the other end showed he is not simply in town to collect a pay cheque. The South African stood and delivered with a brutal arrival to the competition and like Hussey deserved the hundred that narrowly evaded him.
If that wasn’t enough for modern-day cricket’s greatest allrounder, Kallis then bowled Heat opener Dan Christian and took a key catch in the deep.
“It was great fun out there,” Hussey said. “It was great fun batting with Jacques Kallis. I’ve been playing against him all these years it’s good to play with him.”
The only disappointment was that there weren’t more backsides on seats, with only 10,152 seeing the masterclass.
The BBL faces a similar challenge here as the Olympic Stadium’s primary tenant, rugby league: a television product that many would argue is superior to what you get at the ground. Why would you turn up, they say, when you can stay at home listening to the excellent Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist and a miked-up player?
That doesn’t seem to be an issue in Adelaide, where more than 27,000 witnessed the first game of the tournament last week, but in western Sydney the Thunder are playing catch-up after several seasons of woeful results and failure to gather a following.
Even so, given the cast playing on Sunday night – a dozen internationals past and present, including England’s new Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan and Test bolter Joe Burns – there were no shortage of attractions.
Where else would you be able to watch Andrew Flintoff bowl to Kallis in the flesh without access to a time machine?
The former England captain might have wanted to take off in one – back to the English summer of 2005 perhaps – after disappearing for 14 in his first over in the BBL, with Hussey the principal aggressor.
It didn’t get much better for Flintoff when he returned later to be slugged by Kallis. While the Thunder’s grand old stagers soared, it wasn’t his night, ending 0-25 from two overs. The 37-year-old was then sent packing late in the Heat’s run chase for nought.