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  1. Cricket

Big Bash League: Sixers face ever-improving Strikers

The Sydney Sixers must see off the Adelaide Strikers to keep alive their hopes of a Big Bash League title treble.

The Sixers have been crowned Big Bash champions in each of the past two seasons and they are 17/20 to reach the final again with a victory over 1/1 opponents the Strikers in the play-off Challenger clash.

The Sixers have won four of their last five Big Bash meetings with the Strikers, but their only defeat in that run came earlier this month when they were well beaten by eight wickets in Adelaide.

With the Perth Scorchers waiting in Friday's final, the stakes are high at the SCG and here are some of the key talking points for Wednesday's game, which you can follow on our Sports Live Streaming platform.

Strikers time their run to perfection

Adelaide Strikers have already come through two play-off ties, beating the Hobart Hurricanes in the Eliminator before a tight six-run win over the Sydney Thunder at the MCG last weekend.

Those victories stretched their winning streak to six matches, which is a remarkable turnaround given that they had lost eight of their first ten games in the league stage of the competition.

The Strikers have been boosted by the return of Ashes heroes Alex Carey and Travis Head and there is also no shortage of experience in their bowling attack.

Veteran paceman Peter Siddle is the leading bowler in the 2021/22 Big Bash with 29 wickets in 16 appearances and leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, who is closing in on his 40th birthday, claimed 3-16 from his four overs to set up the league win over the Sixers.

Confidence is a valuable commodity in Twenty20 cricket and the Strikers are undoubtedly on a roll as they bid to end the Sixers' hopes of a hat-trick of titles.

Cockbain relishing Big Bash opportunity

Adelaide Strikers' first two overseas players, England all-rounder George Garton and Afghanistan's star spinner Rashid Khan, ended their stints before the play-offs, but Gloucestershire batter Ian Cockbain has proved an inspired replacement.

The 34-year-old is a legend at Bristol's County Ground and has been one of the most consistent runscorers in England's T20 Blast over the past decade.

Despite not having played a competitive match since September, Cockbain has hit the ground running in the Big Bash, scoring an unbeaten 35 on his debut to see the Strikers home in a low-scoring win over the Scorchers.

The Sixers know all about his threat as he blasted 71 not out from just 42 balls in their league meeting on 17th January and he repeated the trick in Sunday's play-off win over Sydney Thunder, scoring 65 from 38 deliveries to power Adelaide to a total of 184-6.

Cockbain is 7/2 to top-score for the Strikers and he is 9/1 to be named player of the match.

Sixers missing big-name batters

James Vince was the star of the show in Sixers' triumphant 2020/21 Big Bash campaign, but he is away on international duty with England in the Caribbean this time around.

The Sixers have been frustrated in their attempts to call up former Australia captain Steve Smith for the play-offs, so much of their runscoring responsibility lies on the shoulders of opener Josh Philippe and experienced skipper Moises Henriques.

And they need to banish memories of their last batting display, when they slipped to 55-7 chasing 190 against the Scorchers, before number nine Ben Dwarshuis reduced the margin of defeat with 66 off 28 balls.

Dwarshuis is 66/1 to repeat that effort by top-scoring against the Strikers, but Philippe at 5/2 and Henriques at 11/4 dominate the top Sydney Sixers batter betting.

Philippe, who has played ten Twenty20 internationals for Australia in the last year, is a huge talent but he has made only one fifty in his last eight Big Bash innings, picking up three ducks during that time.

His lean spell could point punters towards a bet on Adelaide Strikers at 8/11 to have the higher opening partnership, as Carey (67) and Matthew Short (89) put on 145 for the first wicket in their play-off Eliminator win over the Hurricanes.

As the match betting suggests, a competitive contest looks likely - it is 22/1 to go to a Super Over after a tie.

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