The Sydney Sixers have marched into the BBL final on the back of Moises Henriques and Ben Dwarshuis, amid a heartbreaking time for the latter. The Sixers will host the decider at the SCG next week after Henriques' half-century and a five-wicket haul from Dwarshuis set up a 39-run win over the Brisbane Heat in Friday night's qualifying final.
Captain Henriques made 59 from 50 deliveries - his second half-century in two games - in a 94-run third wicket stand with Daniel Hughes (42 off 33). The Sixers made 8-152 after being asked to bat first on the drop-in pitch at Heritage Bank Stadium on the Gold Coast, which proved very up and down.
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Dwarshuis was the star of the bowling innings for the Sixers, taking 5-21 off 3.5 overs as the Heat collapsed to be all out for 113. The left-armer got the key wicket of opener Josh Brown for 15 and then had Matt Renshaw (16) and Paul Walter (golden duck) in consecutive deliveries in the power surge to set up the Sixers' victory.
"That's my second five-for in Big Bash cricket," Dwarshuis said after the game. "It is always good to contribute to a team success when the carrot of hosting a final is there."
Dwarshuis has arguably been the Sixers' best player throughout the tournament - a remarkable feat considering he was rocked by the sudden death of his father in the week before the first game. The devastating tragedy came just days after Dwarshuis played for Australia in a T20 series against India.
"When you factor in the loss of his father this season, the tragedy of that, to see the way he's bowled," Alister Nicholson said in commentary for Channel 7 on Friday night. "He had to push through that pain of a lost loved one, kept playing.
"It's almost like a coping mechanism for him in a way to come back to cricket, to come back to the cricket family. The Sixers really got around him. He's just had a sensational year."
Sixers teammates Steve Smith said at the time of the tragedy: "We're a close bunch here. Benny is going through a tough time, obviously. We're all feeling for him. It's showed real courage I guess coming out here tonight.
"He was keen to play. So credit to him for coming out. And we value him very much in change room. He's done incredibly well for a number of years now. Yeah, we're all feeling for him."
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Dwarshuis has the second-most wickets for the tournament with 16 - equal with Jamie Overton and one behind Xavier Bartlett. He will be pivotal to the Sixers' chances in the final at the SCG, which has proven to be a tricky wicket for batting at times. Jack Edwards also played a key role for the Sixers on Friday night, taking four catches - including a one-handed stunner off his own bowling - two wickets and 16 off eight deliveries with the bat.
The Heat will now play the winners of Saturday night's knockout clash between the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers. All-rounder Michael Neser said the Heat would learn from the loss and hopefully get another crack at the Sixers in the final. "Hopefully, we win the next one and have our revenge and go one better than we did last season," he said.
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