SYDNEY, Australia (CMC): West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell made an under-whelming start to the latest edition of the Big Bash League as reigning champions Sydney Thunder crashed to a nine-wicket defeat in the curtain-raiser here yesterday. Playing at the Sydney Showground Stadium, Thunder rallied to 159 for eight off their 20 overs and then watched as their city rivals Sydney Sixers strolled to their target with two overs to spare. Last season, Thunder won the same opening fixture comfortably. Sent in, Thunder were lifted by debutant opener Ryan Gibson’s top score of 53 from 43 deliveries, while Pat Cummins, batting at number nine, smashed three sixes in a 20-ball 30. Gibson and Englishman Eoin Morgan (26) put on 55 for the second wicket to steer Thunder to 71 for one before five wickets tumbled for 15 runs, to leave the innings in tatters at 86 for six in the 12th over. Russell, coming in at number six, slammed two fours from nine balls before falling to a catch at the wicket off left-arm seamer Doug Bollinger off an under-edge in the 12th over. In reply, Sixers were powered by unbeaten half-centuries from captain Moises Henriques, who made 76, and opener Daniel Hughes, who made 54, as they easily chased their target. Henriques, who struck seven fours and four sixes, put on 45 for the first wicket with England’s Jason Roy (27) and then 115 with Hughes in an unbroken, second-wicket partnership. Russell took the only wicket to fall, drawing Roy into a false stroke off a slower delivery and having him caught at mid-on in the sixth over.