Adelaide struck out by consistent Scorchers

Adelaide Strikers vs Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers 112 (Carey 44, Agar 19-3, Kelly 13-2, Bresnan 14-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 114-4 (Cartwright 47*, Agar 26*, Neser 18-2) by 6 wickets at Traeger Park

The Perth Scorchers needed 24 runs off 28 balls, as Hilton Cartwright looked to take Peter Siddle on over mid-wicket. The ball was hit solidly, but the boundary was just too long. The Adelaide Strikers, having made a good fist of defending their lacklustre total of 112, had the break they needed. Then chaos ensued. Siddle’s foot was over the line, and the well-set Cartwright was recalled to face the free hit. It was the pivotal moment in the match, as Siddle’s slightly errant delivery stride allowed Cartwright to hit a straight six and all but end the Strikers’ hopes of winning the top-of-the-table clash with a dramatic comeback. The win was sealed with 10 balls left, as Cartwright carved Michael Neser over cover to finish on an unbeaten 47.

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Perfect landscape: The backdrop for Alice Springs’ first ever Big Bash game couldn’t have been nicer.

The stage was set for a big game as the first-placed Strikers faced off against the second-placed Scorchers in the first ever BBL game in Alice Springs. It was a battle of the best bowling attacks in the league, but the Strikers started well with the bat. Alex Carey and Jake Weatherald batted through the PowerPlay without losing a wicket, even if the going was tough against the ageless Mitchell Johnson and the too-often injured Joel Paris. When Carey hit a pair of sixes over mid-wicket to close out the sixth over the classy wicketkeeper-batsman looked to have found his touch, and the Scorchers seemed to be in trouble. Then Weatherald missed a sweep shot against the part-time spin of Will Bosisto and was out lbw, kicking off a collapse which derailed the Strikers’ innings.

Colin Ingram, standing in as captain, was the next man to fall, taking on Ashton Agar but finding Bosisto on the square leg boundary. Then Jonathan Wells was caught in no-man’s-land after looking for an adventurous single, and not even a fumble from Cameron Bancroft could save him as the Scorchers’ keeper made up for his slight hiccup by flying through the air to catch him short. Then Carey went too, chipping a catch to Paris off the bowling of Matthew Kelly to leave the Strikers in trouble at 4/80. The Scorchers had the opening they needed, and the rest of the Strikers batsmen barely raised a finger to halt the slide. Johnson’s brilliant one-handed diving catch diverted some attention from the nondescript shot Jake Lehmann played to get out, as Agar’s full toss was hit to short fine-leg off the back of the bat. Both Jono Dean and Neser holed out to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket, and the tail offered no resistance as Tim Bresnan and Paris cleaned them up.

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Steady hand: Hilton Cartwright plays calmly during his match-winning innings.

The target of 113 shouldn’t have been too much of a test for the Scorchers, but they got off to a bad start in chasing it. Bosisto was lucky to survive his first ball after a fine edge went unnoticed by the umpire, but he had little impact as he picked out Peter Siddle at mid-on. Neser collected the second wicket as Michael Klinger found mid-off with a poorly-executed off-drive, and the Scorchers were suddenly under pressure on an oppressive Northern Territory summer’s day. Cameron Bancroft and Cartwright began to steady the ship, but when Bancroft went too hard against Siddle and stand-in skipper Ashton Turner was bowled by the irrepressible Rashid Khan’s unpickable googly, the Scorchers were 4/43 and a massive comeback was on the cards.

It was not to be, as Cartwright and Agar batted steadily to stem the flow of wickets while the scoreboard ticked over. More wind went out of the Strikers’ sails with every wicketless over, as they were methodically batted out of the game. The total was just not big enough, and when Cartwright hit Siddle for a pair of sixes either side of his very near miss the chase was all but complete. Neither Cartwright nor Agar gave another chance as the remaining runs were knocked off without event, and the Scorchers reclaimed their position at the top of the table with a win over their nearest rivals. It was a typical Scorchers-style victory, based around a dominant bowling performance and raising some uncomfortable questions about the Strikers batting in the absence of Travis Head. The Strikers just didn’t score enough runs, and will need to turn it around before entering the finals.

Top 5
1. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was in top form with both bat and ball, contributing to the Strikers’ collapse with a series of middle-overs wickets and closing out a tense chase with a mature innings alongside Cartwright. He appears to have developed greater all-round consistency, and his ability to keep a cool head under pressure has become one of his strengths.
2. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright played the kind of middle-order innings the Scorchers needed, showing plenty of power and providing a steady hand throughout a tense run chase. He started slowly, but played all the bowlers with confidence and ended the match just short of his half-century. He took a pair of nice catches in the first innings of a strong performance.
3. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid was the most potent member of the Strikers’ attack, forcing the Scorchers into a defensive mindset with his ability to turn the ball both ways and removing Turner with a ripping googly all the same. He threatened the batsmen with every ball he bowled in his most economical performance yet, and continues to go from strength to strength.
4. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey was the only batsman who made batting look easy on a difficult wicket, breezing to 44 with a series of nice shots. His pair of sixes against the otherwise tidy Paris were particularly well-struck, and he was the only Strikers player to make a significant contribution with bat in hand. He was as tidy as ever with the gloves, making no errors.
5. Matthew Kelly (Perth Scorchers)
Kelly took the big wicket of Carey and picked up where he left off following an impressive debut against the Thunder. He showed plenty of maturity to keep things tight after entering the attack with the Scorchers in a strong position, and he looks like another solid prospect from the Scorchers production line.

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