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Hobart Hurricanes have one foot in the Big Bash League finals after Matthew Wade returned from personal leave and powered them to a crucial win over the Sydney Thunder.
Fresh off a week at home with his family, Wade smashed an unbeaten 83 from 54 balls in Hobart's 6-177 to set up the Hurricanes' nine-run win.
With the roof closed at Marvel Stadium, the Hurricanes were forced to contend with the most expensive powerplay of the competition as the Thunder went hard early.
But the Sydney team slumped from 2-92 after eight overs to 6-102, as part of a mid-innings collapse sparked by Jordan Thompson (3-24).
Thompson removed the Thunder's two dangermen in Alex Hales (38 from 17) and Jason Sangha (31 from 19), ripping the heart out of their pursuit for a seventh straight win.
Riley Meredith (3-29) then tore through the middle order, bowling both Ollie Davies and Ben Cutting in successive balls to stunt the chase.
The win tightened the Hurricanes' grip on fourth place, nine points clear of Brisbane Heat in sixth.
With just three games to play for the chasing pack, Hobart would need to lose both their remaining matches against the Melbourne Renegades and the Melbourne Stars and have other results go against them to miss the top-five finals.
"It looks like we're going to be in the finals now," Wade said.
"Couldn't be happier, play a few more games and see what happens."
The second-placed Thunder's hopes of securing top spot are as good as over, seven points behind the Perth Scorchers with two matches to play.
Wade's innings came as he bumped himself down to No.3 in the order, while also ridding of the gloves to work closer with his bowlers in the field.
He hit eight boundaries and two big sixes in his knock, including one into the second tier over the legside off Nathan McAndrew.
He was dropped on 18 when he offered up an easy chance to Tanveer Sangha, while also surviving a run-out opportunity that same ball and caught-behind appeal the following over.
But Australia's Twenty20 World Cup hero rode his luck after scoring just 10 runs from his previous four innings since Christmas.
"I have played long enough to know the wheel turns eventually if you stay confident and back yourself," Wade said.
"I haven't scored then runs I would like to in the previous games.
"But a bit of a change or role, I just went out there and tried to play the way I play."
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