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Sixers storm home against Thunder to boost lead at top of ladder

“He’s honestly like a coach,” he said. “He’s come into our environment and he loves being here, he loves all us boys and he loves his two little spin brothers in [Ben] Manenti and [Lloyd] Pope … I think that perspective allows him to be super relaxed out there.

“He just keeps doing the job for us.”

Stephen O'Keefe celebrates the wicket of Sam Billings.

Stephen O’Keefe celebrates the wicket of Sam Billings.Credit:Getty

The match began with a shaky fumble from the boys in magenta. A misfield by wicketkeeper Philippe handed the Thunder five wides to start the day and left many questioning whether the Sixers were nervous.

Manuka Oval has been the closest thing to a home ground for the Sydney sides this season due to COVID-19 rescheduling. The Thunder had played five games at the venue this season before Wednesday, winning four of them.

But even at their temporary fortress, the Thunder couldn’t capitalise on the Sixers’ early nerves.

Opening batsman Usman Khawaja, who has been unshakable in partnership with Alex Hales in recent weeks, was dismissed for two by Jackson Bird. The departure had every Sixer on the field grinning from ear to ear.

Josh Philippe taking on the Sydney Thunder bowlers at Manuka Oval.

Josh Philippe taking on the Sydney Thunder bowlers at Manuka Oval.Credit:Getty

The wickets continued to fall.

Captain Callum Ferguson had departed for just three when O’Keefe stepped up to the crease. He took no prisoners.

First, he sent Sam Billings to the sheds for 15 and then took the crucial wicket of Hales (54) just before the 10-over break. O’Keefe struck again to dismiss Alex Ross (3), eventually finishing with figures of 3-15.

Ben Cutting went for eight to leave the Thunder wobbling. After missing the Thunder’s last two games due to concussion protocols, Daniel Sams proved their saving grace. Hitting four off the final ball to finish on 50 not out, Sams gave the Sixers a respectable target of 167.

With a rain delay during the break, the chase was reset – and the Thunder refused to go down without a fight.

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Justin Avendano was sent for 17, and then a slow ball from Cutting dismissed James Vince for seven. Young star Tanveer Sangha showed the depth of his potential again, dismissing skipper Daniel Hughes for seven at a crucial point in the match.

Despite multiple lifelines, Jordan Silk managed only 13 – putting huge pressure on Philippe to see it through.

There was a last-minute scare for the Sixers when the youngster was bowled in the second-last over, but the damage had already been done.

Carlos Brathwaite finished the job, hitting a boundary with eight balls to go.

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