Moises Henriques’s stellar all-round show guided New South Wales Blues to the Super Eight stage of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament as the Australian side beat Sussex Sharks comfortably by 35 runs in a Group B match on Sunday.
NSW, thus, became the second team to qualify for the next stage after Cape Cobras, who made it to the last eight league round after defeating Otago Volts.
Henriques smashed a 33-ball unbeaten 51 and in the company of Phillip Hughes, who batted superbly for his unbeaten 64-ball 61 helped NSW reach a modest 130 for two after opting to bat.
Henriques then picked up three wickets for 23 runs from his four overs to shape NSW’s win.
Opener Chris Nash (24 off 30) was the lone bright spot in Sussex batting line-up but he too crumbled under pressure when his side needed him most.
Defending a modest 130, in-form Brett Lee gave a dream start to NSW as he struck in the first over of the innings, cleaning up stand-in skipper Sussex skipper Ed Joyce for a duck.
Without their inspirational captain Michael Yardy, who didn’t play the match due to illness, the Sussex batsmen found life difficult against the pace duo of Lee and Doug Bollinger as they could manage only 12 runs of the first four overs.
The English team’s problems were further compounded when Rory Hamilton-Brown was superbly stumped by Daniel Smith tosses it up ever so slowly outside off, Brown dances down the track but he’s beaten in flight and Daniel Smith whips off the off leggie Steven Smith.
West Indian Dwayne Smith did try to give some momentum to the Sussex innings, making 13 off 15 balls with the help of two boundaries, but his stay at the crease was cut short by Bollinger who disturbed his timbers to see Sussex in a spot of bother at 49 for three at the halfway mark.
Henriques dream form in the tournament continued as after a fine batting display, he shone with the ball picking up Chris Nash and Piyush Chawla in back-to-back deliveries to hammer the final nail in Sussex coffin.
Henriques first scalped Nash, who paddle scooped one to Stuart Clark at short fine leg and then Chawla gave a simple catch to Hughes at point.
From there on, defeat was inevitable for the English side as the rest of the batters failed to come to terms with pressure as well as a fiery NSW bowling attack and could only manage 95 runs for eight from their alloted 20 overs.
Earlier, Hughes played sensibly on the tricky Feroz Shah Kotla wicket to score 61 off 64 balls while Henriques was aggression personified from the time of his arrival at the crease as he took just 33 balls for his 51.
Opener David Warner was the other notable scorer for NSW with 14 runs off 18 deliveries with the help of two fours.
For Sussex leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the lone wicket-taker, giving away 21 runs off his two overs.
NSW started on a cautious note on the unpredictable Kotla pitch, scoring 30 runs in the first six overs.
Sensing the uneven bounce of the wicket, the duo dealt mostly in singles and twos with occasional boundaries in the middle before Warner was run out in the eight over.
Introduced into the attack in the ninth over, Chawla struck immediately, getting the wicket of Daniel Smith (2), caught at wide long-on boundary by Robin Martin-Jenkins.
Hughes, however, was determined to make up for his flop show against Diamond Eagles, clobbering Chawla over the long-off boundary. Inspired by his partner at the other end, Henriques swiped the leg-spinner over deep square leg to pick up 17 runs from the 11th over.
Although, Hughes was not as destructive as the format of the game demands, the left-hander was the backbone of the NSW innings and notched up his fifty in 52 balls.
He found the fence four times and cleared it once. Henriques, on the other end, was in a ominous form, treating the Sussesx bowlers with disdain to score his fifty with the help of three fours and two sixes.
Sussex bowlers though did well in the slog overs, giving away just 35 runs in the last five overs to restrict the Australian side to the modest total.