Rashid nearly crashes farewell party, but Scorchers just keep winning

Perth Scorchers vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 137-6 (Weatherald 56, Carey 25, Richardson 23-2, Kelly 31-2, Bresnan 34-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 141-6 (Voges 56*, Bancroft 49, Rashid 20-3) by 4 wickets at the WACA

For seven seasons of the BBL, the Perth Scorchers have called the WACA their home. It has hosted more BBL finals than any other ground, and the Scorchers’ loyal fans have witnessed some great moments. Now, it was in its final hours as a Big Bash ground, with the glitzy new multi-purpose stadium that is set to replace it as the home of West Australian cricket looming large in the background. On the field, it was a battle of the two best attacks in the league, and the Scorchers saw off the top-of-the-table Adelaide Strikers by following a pattern their home fans had seen many times before. Sure, Rashid Khan gave them a bit of a scare with a destructive spell of leg-spin bowling, but they were always going to get home. It was close, but it just wouldn’t have been fitting any other way.

With a finals berth already sealed, Strikers coach Jason Gillespie saw an opportunity to tinker with his previously successful batting order. It backfired. Alex Carey was demoted from his usual opening position, and the Strikers started slowly against the typically miserly Scorchers attack. Jono Dean, coming in with a blue bat in hand and a long mane of dark brown hair protruding from the back of his helmet, never got going before swinging hard and bunting a catch to Mitchell Johnson at mid-off. Jake Weatherald was subdued despite hitting his first two balls for six. Colin Ingram, days after hitting a devastating 68 against the Melbourne Renegades, was tied down before he was dismissed after edging a slow short ball on his hip straight to Cameron Bancroft. Jonathan Wells batted time without making an impact, and fell after diverting a wide ball from Tim Bresnan straight into Johnson’s safe hands.

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Death rattle: Alex Carey’s entertaining cameo comes to an end at the hands of Jhye Richardson.

Weatherald went on to register his second fifty of the season, but he departed to an excellent Matthew Kelly yorker and the Strikers found themselves in even deeper trouble. The opener had borne the brunt of the run-scoring as his teammates struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack, and now the Strikers looked particularly vulnerable. Then Carey came in, and batted with freedom and power. He cleared the front leg and swung hard, and he got a few clean shots away to put the Scorchers under pressure and make a mockery of his demotion. His cameo was all-too-short, and the Strikers meagre total never looked good enough. The WACA crowd had seen this script before, and there was only one way the Scorchers’ tenure at the ground was going to end: with a Scorchers victory underpinned by their dominant bowling unit.

Unfortunately, no-one let Rashid know. It wasn’t too much of an issue when Sam Whiteman and Michael Klinger managed to pick out fielders in the inner circle. The Scorchers had ridden out such early troubles on countless occasions, and it was just a slight tremor induced by the tall, fast and downright dangerous Billy Stanlake. Then Rashid sensed an opportunity, and the loss of the openers mattered a bit more. Hilton Cartwright made the costly mistake of taking the Afghan leg-spinner on, and paid the price as his poorly-hit slog found the fielder at mid-wicket. Then Ashton Turner, so often a hero for the Scorchers with his brutal hitting, was beaten by a brilliant googly and hit on the thigh. He was given out lbw, and Rashid ran past everyone in a jubilant celebration. The Scorchers had lost 4 wickets in 5 overs as the tremor became a collapse. This wasn’t meant to happen, and a stunned silence fell over the home crowd.

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Nervous moments: Rashid Khan celebrates with his teammates after dismissing Ashton Turner for a golden duck.

Then Bancroft and Adam Voges stepped up to mount a recovery. It’s just how the Scorchers do things. Bancroft, who had come in after Whiteman helped a poor ball from Michael Neser straight to Stanlake at fine-leg, had witnessed the collapse from the relative safety of the non-striker’s end. Now, in conjunction with his captain, he steadied the ship. It wasn’t quick, or the kind of blazing counterattack one might expect from a less-mature team. Instead, it was a partnership which epitomised the Scorchers’ style: no bluster, no panic, just a calm response to the problem at hand. Together, Bancroft and Voges began to make headway. The ball began to find the boundary with increasing regularity, and the runs were flowing at a dangerous rate for the Strikers. Then the errors started to seep into their game. The bowlers made slight errors which were punished by the two set batsmen. Rashid, fielding at long-off, was far too casual in his attempts to collect Bancroft’s rolling off-drive, and it slipped through his legs for four. Ingram decided to bring himself on, and the batsmen hit around with little fuss. The Scorchers were in control.

Then Rashid re-entered the attack. He had bowled two more overs since his devastating pair of early wickets, keeping the runs down but failing to break through the Scorchers’ solid defences. Now, just three balls were left in his spell, and Bancroft, on 49, received a floating ball outside off stump. Predictably, he sought to drive, leaving his defence completely exposed as Rashid’s perfect googly crashed into his stumps. Rashid, arms outstretched in celebration, gave him a contemptuous stare as he trudged from the ground. When Ashton Agar struggled to get going before being undone by an unexpected Ben Laughlin bouncer, the Scorchers still needed 14 to win off 10 balls. It was far from over. That was before Voges stepped up. He had taken a pair of boundaries off the eighteenth over, and when Neser started the last over with a full toss it was clinically dispatched for the first six of the innings. Voges brought up his fifty with the shot, and the home crowd could finally relax when Bresnan closed it out two balls later. In the end, the Scorchers ended their time at the WACA doing what they do best: winning.

Top 5
1. Adam Voges (Perth Scorchers)
Voges came in after the Scorchers’ top order had collapsed, but his calmness under pressure allowed his side to come away with the win. He put the rare bad balls away well, and his ability to turn the strike over ensured the Scorchers continued to progress steadily in their chase. His unbeaten half-century against a very strong attack comes at a good time with finals just around the corner, and he deserves credit for playing through the pain of a dislocated finger.
2. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
It was previously thought that this would be Rashid’s last game of the tournament, and the Strikers will be breathing a sigh of relief that this is no longer the case. He only furthered his reputation with another masterful performance, spinning through the Scorchers’ middle-order and creating plenty of problems. His ability to turn the ball both ways was on full display, and he looks to have hit top form.
3. Jhye Richardson (Perth Scorchers)
Richardson put in his best bowling performance of the season to peg the Strikers back time and again, landing the ball exactly where he wanted it and collecting a pair of key wickets at the death. After a couple of poor games prior to his departure for international duty he seems to have regained his touch, and his pace will be a handful in the finals.
4. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft fell just one run short of his half-century, but he deserves credit for his combination with Voges in a match-winning partnership. He hit the ball solidly when he looked to attack, and he put some pressure back on the Strikers as his innings progressed and he found the fence more often. He will be very happy with his performances since coming into the Scorchers’ team.
5. Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Weatherald was the only Strikers batsman to find any real form, batting calmly and progressing to a confident half-century with some powerful shots. He started his innings with a pair of sixes, and he batted calmly even when his partners struggled against the disciplined Scorchers attack. He showed an excellent temperament, which should hold him in good stead as the season comes to a close.

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Ingram blitz proves too much for Renegades

Melbourne Renegades vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 173-5 (Ingram 68, Head 58, Carey 32, Bravo 30-2) def Melbourne Renegades 147-7 (Hodge 30*, Harris 25, Laughlin 18-2, Stanlake 22-2, Rashid 26-2) by 26 runs at Etihad Stadium

Ben Laughlin had few options available to him as he caught Dwayne Bravo’s ungainly lofted cover drive. He was in mid-air, at the top of a big jump, and the boundary line was getting very close, very quickly. All his momentum was carrying him towards the rope, and he was travelling too fast to throw the ball to himself and catch it back in-bounds. It was unfortunate, but he would just have to settle for saving the six. As expected, he flung the ball back into the field of play as he flew, full-length, over the rope. It seemed like an unnecessarily long throw, but he had saved six runs anyway. Then Jake Weatherald took the catch, and realisation at what Laughlin had just pulled off morphed into disbelief. It was hard to estimate how far he had thrown the pass, but his accuracy was perfect. The Melbourne Renegades were already on the ropes in their critical clash with the Adelaide Strikers. Laughlin’s miraculous effort all but snuffed out the chance of an unlikely comeback.

The Strikers started their innings slowly, with Weatherald’s poor season continuing as he chopped Chris Tremain onto his stumps and Travis Head never really getting going against the Renegades’ disciplined bowling attack. Alex Carey provided a momentary break in the Renegades’ control with a pair of perfectly-timed straight drives off the bowling of Kane Richardson, but by the end of the PowerPlay the hosts were well on top. Then, as they have done so often this season, Carey and Head did something about it. Head provided the spark, greeting Tremain’s return to the attack with a clean six over mid-wicket and a crisply hit cut shot for four. Soon Carey began to join in, hitting a pair of slog sweeps which picked the gap on the leg-side boundary and showing plenty of intent. Suddenly he was gone. All too soon, his entertaining innings was over, cut short by a lofted cover drive which didn’t quite go the distance and found the safe hands of Marcus Harris on the boundary. The Strikers still hadn’t put their opposition under enough pressure, and their chances of posting an imposing total looked slim even as Head moved to a steady half-century.

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Powerful: Colin Ingram is in full flight during his important 68.

Then Colin Ingram stepped up. His season has been marked by a series of false starts and innings which never got off the ground, but this game was different as he showcased his immense ball-striking ability to devastating effect. He showed some early glimpses, hitting Brad Hogg for a pair of powerful boundaries and flicking Dwayne Bravo to the fine-leg fence with contemptuous ease, but he really picked up the pace when Richardson came on for the eighteenth over. The newly-selected member of Australia’s T20 team was deposited into the stands with a pair of effortless bottom-hand swats which threatened to land in the second tier of Etihad Stadium. Kieron Pollard came on and dismissed Head, but before he could quell the Strikers’ momentum Ingram had belted his last two balls for another two sixes. He fell with the second-last ball of the innings, but not before a Bravo full toss had joined the steady procession of balls flying into the stands and the game had been placed firmly in the Strikers’ control. Ingram’s cameo set up the game, and his teammates went out and won it.

The Renegades never found enough momentum against the Strikers’ diverse attack. Harris and Tim Ludeman were able to find some runs against the pace of Michael Neser and Billy Stanlake, but the innings was derailed when Peter Siddle made the breakthrough. Ludeman departed, picking up a fine edge and allowing Carey to take a comfortable catch. The dismissal of their former teammate allowed the visitors to tighten the screws, with Ben Laughlin, Siddle and Rashid Khan keeping things tight and allowing the batsmen no breathing room. Harris and Cameron White, the latter very fresh from international duty, couldn’t score at more than a run a ball, and the game was beginning to slip away.

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Miracle worker: Ben Laughlin prepares to make his extraordinary backhand pass to Jake Weatherald.

As the Renegades felt the pressure, the Strikers began to pick them off. If the roof was on, Harris’ skied slog off the bowling of Stanlake may well have hit it. As it happened, all it found was the exposed Melbourne night sky, and the gloves of Carey as the keeper took a remarkably composed catch given the difficulty of the chance. Eventually White looked to break his pattern of slow-scoring by slog sweeping Rashid Khan. He missed, and was clean-bowled by the Afghan’s devastating googly. Tom Cooper had a crack, and hit some nice shots, but a top-edge off Stanlake allowed Carey to take another very high catch.

By now, the Renegades were hanging their hopes on the explosiveness of Kieron Pollard and Bravo. It was a long shot. Both men were early members of the cult of the freelance cricketer, but their single-handed match-winning ability has since diminished, replaced by experience and smarter, less powerful cricket. Then Laughlin, or, rather, Weatherald, took that catch, and their faint hopes were all but gone. Pollard, in his first BBL outing, had walked to the crease wearing a cap and a gold watch. It was a brash entrance, and the innings never quite lived up to it. He departed against the bowling of Laughlin, holing out in the deep, and the last remnants of life were sucked from the game by the ruthless Strikers attack. They needed 44 from the last over, and a series of boundaries from Brad Hodge in the dying embers of the game could only lessen the inevitable damage to the Renegades’ net run rate. They still have a good shot of making the finals, but their performance against a top side leaves plenty to be desired.

Top 5
1. Colin Ingram (Adelaide Strikers)
Ingram finally hit his stride with a series of crushing sixes as the innings came to a close, and his bulldozing 68 allowed the Strikers to post a total that was always too good for the Renegades. He made a mockery of the Renegades’ death bowling with his ridiculous power, and he seems to have found form at the right time.
2. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin played an excellent game, keeping things tight with the ball and pulling off one of the all-time great catches to remove Bravo and seal the win for the Strikers. His variation and unerring accuracy proved too much for the Renegades, and he picked up a couple of big wickets along the way to seal the win for his side.
3. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head was in solid touch on return from Australian duty, and he played a mature innings on a tough pitch to get the Strikers to a winning score. His steady half-century included some very nice shots, but it was combination with Ingram which laid the foundation for the Strikers’ key victory. As ever, his shrewd captaincy allowed the bowling attack to thrive.
4. Billy Stanlake (Adelaide Strikers)
Stanlake bowled with plenty of pace, routinely hitting the high-140s and early-150s and making the Renegades uncomfortable as a result. He used his combination of speed and accuracy to great effect, and bagged a pair of key wickets along the way. He has been one of the Strikers’ biggest weapons, and showed all of his skills.
5. Brad Hodge (Melbourne Renegades)
Most of Hodge’s runs came in the last four balls of the innings when the match was already decided, but he deserves credit for a powerful innings which may well prove crucial if the last finals spot comes down to net run rate. He struck the ball very cleanly, and hit one six which landed in the top tier of Etihad Stadium. He is one of the few Renegades who can hold their head high.

Late storm not enough as Hurricanes fall to Carey classic

Adelaide Strikers vs Hobart Hurricanes
Adelaide Strikers 187-4 (Carey 100, Weatherald 65, Archer 27-3) def Hobart Hurricanes 176-4 (Doolan 70*, McDermott 45, Short 28) by 11 runs at Adelaide Oval

D’Arcy Short was on strike, and looked slightly tied down against the disciplined bowling of the Adelaide Strikers. The Hobart Hurricanes were behind in their pursuit of the Strikers’ formidable 187, and the in-form Short was shaping as their biggest hope. With the last ball of his second over Michael Neser delivered a slower ball pitching on a good length. It was the kind of delivery Short has smoked to the boundary in his previous innings, but this time he could only get a slight edge off the toe of the bat. Alex Carey, taking the gloves after compiling a first-innings century in sweltering conditions at the Adelaide Oval, dived forwards with his legs spread, and took the catch easily. The Strikers’ initial reaction was one of subdued shock giving way to elation, as the BBL’s leading run scorer was dismissed. The Hurricanes fought hard, and gave the hosts a late scare with a series of boundaries, but without Short’s clean-hitting and dependable presence they just couldn’t get over the line as the Strikers moved to the top of the table.

The Strikers benefitted from an opening partnership which laid a formidable platform. Carey was the main man, marching to an imperious century with poise and power. He was perfectly calm despite a slow start, and when the runs started to flow he began to put the Hurricanes under pressure. He closed out the PowerPlay with a flat six against Tymal Mills, and displayed excellent temperament as he continued to work the ball around and run up the score with some clinical batting. He survived after skying one against D’Arcy Short following some calamitous fielding from Cameron Boyce, and with the aid of some shocking mishaps on the boundary he cruised to 73 off 46 balls. Then he exploded. Dan Christian, bowling the sixteenth over, was the victim of the savage assault, with ball after ball flying off the middle of the bat and running to the boundary. 22 came from the over, and Carey brought up a classy century with an easy single to the mid-wicket boundary off the bowling of Boyce. He let some rare emotion cross his usually unflustered face as he celebrated the second ton of the season, and the Hurricanes were in big trouble.

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Partners in crime: Alex Carey (left) and Jake Weatherald celebrate after Carey brings up his century.

Their problems were exacerbated by Jake Weatherald’s dramatic return to form. Weatherald came into the game out of touch and under pressure, having failed to deliver an innings worthy of his immense talent and ball striking ability. He started slowly as the Hurricanes sought to tie him down with the left-arm spin of Clive Rose and Short, but a pair of boundaries against Rose and Jofra Archer allowed him to find some rhythm. When Mills entered the attack Weatherald hit him for a comfortable six over the very short leg-side boundary, and he withstood the post PowerPlay spin attack which has so often proved his downfall. When Archer returned to the attack he was hit into the stands, and with a sweep shot which evaded Archer’s dive at fine-leg and a well-run single he brought up his first fifty of the tournament. He continued to press forward, and soon the pair had added 171.

With a massive total in the offing, Archer stepped up. He delivered a series of perfect yorkers, and extracted reverse swing in the dying overs while accounting for all four wickets to fall. Weatherald was the first to depart, falling to Archer’s remarkable play of the day, a direct hit run out completed while the flamboyant import lay on his back. The next ball saw the end of Carey’s brilliant knock, as Archer fired a lightning quick yorker past his futile swing. Colin Ingram and Jonathan Wells struggled to gain traction against some accurate bowling, and eventually Wells was out lbw to a ball which cannoned into his foot. Then Jake Lehmann, the unfortunately mustachioed son of the Australian coach, was left spreadeagled on the ground after he was clean bowled. Archer had limited the damage, but without the support of his teammates the final tally of 187 looked formidable.

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Too good: Jofra Archer leaves Jake Lehmann both dismissed and embarrassed with a ripping delivery.

The Hurricanes didn’t start well enough, with Short and Alex Doolan struggling to get going early against some disciplined PowerPlay bowling. Billy Stanlake managed to build up some dots against Short, and a series of cleanly hit boundaries against Neser weren’t enough to get the red-hot opener going. The Hurricanes’ chase was beginning to flag before Short’s departure, as Doolan was unable to score faster than a run a ball and the asking rate climbed steadily. George Bailey came in, but he couldn’t provide the spark, and was clean bowled by an inch-perfect Peter Siddle yorker. With Short’s failure, the Hurricanes simply had no answer to the Strikers’ top-quality attack. They needed someone to step up, but it wasn’t clear who was capable.

Then Doolan got going, immediately after being hit in the helmet by a vicious Ben Laughlin bouncer. The first few boundaries hardly inspired fear, with a series of edges flying past Carey on their way to the fence. One might have said it was just Doolan swinging hard, as well he should with the required rate sitting at nearly 13 an over. Then he started to score some runs with genuine cricket shots, and things got a little testy. Before this game, Rashid Khan had not conceded more than 23 runs in a four-over spell. Doolan hit him for 20 in one over, launching him into the stands three times and bringing up his fifty in the process. Then he was dropped, as Siddle missed a straightforward chance and split the webbing on his finger. There was doubt as to whether the former Test star could bowl another over, and suddenly the Strikers were under a bit of pressure.

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Having a crack: Alex Doolan swings hard during his unbeaten 70.

Ben McDermott added to that pressure by throwing his clean hitting into the mix. After bursting onto the scene last year with a blistering century in a record chase, McDermott has only been able to show flashes of his best form this time around. Twice he has launched balls onto the roof of Blundstone Arena, but he hadn’t been able to convert his starts into something meaningful. This was his chance, and he looked set to seize it with a series of boundaries, all hit as clean as a whistle. He had moved into the forties, and when Laughlin miscued with a low full toss he had a chance to bring up his fifty. Instead, he hit the errant ball straight to Wells, who showed composure which stood apart from the poor fielding exhibited in the rest of the match and held on. Doolan’s luck and power seemed to evaporate with the loss of his partner, and the Strikers were spared any more nervous moments by Siddle’s brilliant return to the attack and Neser’s calmly bowled last over. Just like that, the Hurricanes’ five-game winning streak was ended, and the Strikers re-established their credentials as a genuine title contender with a crucial win.

Top 5
1. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted with confidence from start to finish, and hit the ball cleanly on his way to a well-compiled hundred. Some of his flat sixes were remarkable shots, and he combined perfectly with Weatherald to put on 171 for the first wicket and all but bat the Hurricanes out of the game. He put in a tired effort with the gloves, but still managed to take a nice catch and pull off some neat work behind the stumps.
2. Alex Doolan (Hobart Hurricanes)
Doolan flicked a switch halfway through his innings, and began to get the score ticking over at a rapid rate with a combination of streaky edges and well-hit slog sweeps. He achieved the rare feat of hitting Rashid for three sixes in an over, and showed an aggressive side that had been missing in his previous innings. He batted through the innings, and will be happy with his half-century.
3. Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Weatherald came into the game in the middle of a form slump, but found his best form and combined with Carey to devastating effect. He was the slower of the two openers, but he managed to play some nice shots and displayed plenty of power against the quicks. His efforts at deep mid-wicket stood out on an otherwise dismal day for fielding.
4. Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
Archer can do plenty of things wrong, but barely a game passes without him providing a moment worthy of a place on the highlight reels. In this game, it was a direct hit while lying on the ground, and he followed it up with a top-class display of death bowling to limit the Strikers to 187. His ability to reverse swing the ball at extreme pace made him a nightmare to face at the end of the innings.
5. Michael Neser (Adelaide Strikers)
Neser’s night got off to a horror start as Short took an initial liking to him, but he recovered cleverly to remove the in-form opener and keep things tight with an impressive array of variations. He was unlucky not to remove Doolan, and bowled very well at the death to close out the win for the Strikers. He showed plenty of maturity, and his newfound consistency bodes well for the Strikers.

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.

Stars fail to shine as Strikers cruise home

Adelaide Strikers vs Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 151-6 (Maxwell 60, Stoinis 39) lost to Adelaide Strikers 152-2 (Carey 59*, Head 53) by 8 wickets at Adelaide Oval

Adam Zampa pitched the ball up, and Alex Carey slog swept it hard and flat. The ball just kept travelling, as it flew into the gap on the leg-side. It landed metres outside the boundary, and, just like that, it was over. The Adelaide Strikers had won with little fuss, and left the Melbourne Stars wondering what they can salvage from a campaign that is quickly becoming a smouldering wreck. In this game, they benefitted from Marcus Stoinis’ power and an excellent innings from Glenn Maxwell. They bowled well as a team. None of it mattered.

The Stars have tried everything to halt their slide. They have been berated, told to go about their business differently, and there have been plenty of players dropped. None of it has worked. Not for the first time, an early collapse was at the heart of their defeat. Their problems started before the toss, with Luke Wright absent after a late-night trip to the bathroom went wrong and he did his back. When the PowerPlay was finished with the Stars at 3/34, makeshift opener Stoinis was the last man remaining from a top order which fell down like a house of cards.

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Big hitting: Glenn Maxwell swings hard during his 60.

Ben Dunk was the first to depart, attempting to loft one over Ben Laughlin at mid-off and failing in his efforts. Then Kevin Pietersen, fresh from announcing that this BBL season will be his last, played an innings which was short on substance but not in entertainment value. He flicked Billy Stanlake to the boundary with one leg in the air, and then survived some terrible running between the wickets only to get himself bowled for 5. His attempt to give himself room and waft at a straight ball gave the impression that Pietersen has given up. Peter Handscomb, wearing a shirt upon which his name was misspelled, faced only five balls before skying a pull shot against Ben Laughlin with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

Stoinis had been motoring along nicely at the other end, and when Stanlake returned for the seventh over he played him with ease and brutal power. He had flown to 39 out of his side’s meagre 51. Then he departed too, taking on the consistent Rashid Khan and picking out the man on the boundary perfectly. At this point Maxwell, who had entered with Handscomb’s dismissal, took over. In conjunction with Seb Gotch he played a mature innings, giving the Stars something to defend. He began his innings with an early boundary, a cut shot through backward point for four. For some reason, the Strikers never put anyone on the point boundary, as he continued to score through point and third man with alarming frequency. Michael Neser was cut through a miniscule gap in the in-field and slapped for six over cover. Peter Siddle was run down to third man. Rashid was reverse swept over the two fielders placed on the ring. Stanlake was the victim of a thick outside edge which ran unimpeded to the boundary. Maxwell brought up fifty with three more runs through third man, but didn’t last much longer. With his departure, the innings fizzled out. John Hastings hit a big six off the penultimate ball of the innings, but 6/151 was an underwhelming return.

The Strikers’ pursuit was a steady one, as the hosts never looked threatened by the Stars’ bowling attack. Early progress was slow, but Jake Weatherald and Carey had soon begun to find the boundary, with Carey’s series of drives particularly easy on the eye. Weatherald departed just after the PowerPlay as he sought to sweep Maxwell and fell victim to a sharp stumping from Handscomb. At this point Travis Head came to the crease to join Carey, and the Stars were methodically batted out of the game.

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Balance: Travis Head hits the ball while standing on one leg during his brilliant 53.

Head’s innings was perfectly paced from start to finish, and ended any faint hopes the Stars may have had. He started slowly, and initially the boundaries dried up as Carey also struggled to find the rope. As his innings moved forward, however, he was able to find the fence with greater regularity. He took a liking to Stoinis, hitting a crisp back foot drive against his medium pace and following it up with his first six, which hit Hastings’ rock hard hands at deep mid-wicket and flew over the boundary. As the target came within striking distance, he began to accelerate rapidly. He hit Scott Boland through a tiny gap between cover and mid-off while balancing on one leg and advancing down the wicket, and proceeded to hit another flat pull shot for six over mid-wicket. Stoinis returned, and Head hit a six over long-off and an edged four through third man to bring up 50. He was out next ball, but he had batted the Stars out of the game.

The rest of the chase was completed fairly comfortably, as Carey reached his half-century and Colin Ingram came in and looked to close out the win as quickly as possible. Like Head, he used Stoinis as a punching bag with a massive six and a well-hit four, assuaging any late nerves the Strikers may have had. As the game wound down he was dropped twice, but this was more a postscript which symbolised the Stars’ many issues than a decisive moment in a contest that was reaching an inevitable end. The Strikers found things too easy against a Stars side containing too many passengers, and with this loss all but confirming the Stars’ non-presence in the finals they will have a lot of thinking to do about how they are going to take something out of their catastrophic campaign.

Top 5
1. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head’s innings was perfectly paced and set up the chase brilliantly for the Strikers. He led from the front in compiling a half-century, and some of the boundaries he hit towards the end of his innings were ridiculous shots. He showed a maturity which bodes well for the future, and continued to show his well-honed captaincy skills.
2. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell played a very nice innings to give the Stars a fighting chance, and bowled well to pick up the big wicket of Weatherald. He was especially prolific through point, and while he showed some of his inventiveness he seems to have mostly shelved his unorthodox style in favour of a more determined approach. Time will tell whether it works, but the early results are promising if not as destructive.
3. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted through the innings and was the perfect counterpoint to Head’s aggression, keeping everything going steadily and batting very maturely as the Strikers ran down the target. His glovework was as steady as ever, and his consistent presence with both bat and gloves has allowed the Strikers to move towards the upper reaches of the table.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid’s quality is highlighted by the fact that he was the best bowler on either side despite putting in his worst performance of the season so far. For the first time this season he failed to take two wickets in the match, but his removal of Stoinis and ability to beat the in-form Maxwell on both sides of the bat meant that he was still as dangerous as ever. He barely bowls a bad ball.
5. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was the only member of the Stars’ top-order who stood up, and along with Maxwell provided the base for their total. He hit the ball well and looked completely at home while others faltered, and although he was dismissed when he looked set for a destructive half-century he can take pride in his performance. He struggled with the ball, but picked up the wicket of Head and should have had Ingram with the last ball of his spell.

Strikers win big as Heat go cold

Adelaide Strikers vs Brisbane Heat
Adelaide Strikers 147-7 (Neser 40*, Lalor 40-3, Yasir 18-2) def Brisbane Heat 91 (Laughlin 11-3, Neser 7-2, Rashid 19-2) by 56 runs at Adelaide Oval

Chris Lynn wasn’t out. The Brisbane Heat’s bald-headed, big hitting destroyer of attacks played and missed at his third ball, a well-flighted leg break from Rashid Khan, the Afghan teenage sensation tasked with removing him. There was a noise as it passed through into the gloves of Alex Carey. It could have been the bat clipping the ground. It could have been something else. At this point, all that mattered was the fact that it wasn’t the bat and the cruel injustice of the umpire’s raised finger, heralding the end of an all-too-brief stay at the crease. If it was a Test match, Lynn would have been reprieved by the mercy of the DRS. Instead, he could only shake his head with indignation writ large upon his usually impassive face as he made his way back to the pavilion. The Heat never recovered, as the Adelaide Strikers cut swathes through their star-studded line up on their way to a crushing victory.

The Strikers had done well to reach a below-par 147. Josh Lalor had seized the early initiative, bowling Carey and Jake Weatherald with a pair of near identical balls which swung past their inside edges as they looked to play big slogs and clipped the top of leg stump. Travis Head survived the loss of the openers, but was tied down by Yasir Shah and was bowled when he looked to go for the big hit. When Jonathan Wells bunted a catch to short cover and Colin Ingram showed poor match awareness to pick out the man in the deep with the last ball of Yasir’s spell, the Strikers appeared set for a big defeat.

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Recovery: Michael Neser hits to the leg side during his 40 not out.

Then Jake Lehmann and Michael Neser stepped up to mount an unlikely recovery, abetted by the Heat’s poor fielding. Lehmann was dropped first ball by Mark Steketee and on two by Lalor, and a misfield from Cameron Gannon gifted him his first boundary. There were edges just past the keeper and mishits all over the ground, but he dug in and just kept going. It was Neser who provided the fireworks. He too was dropped, Lalor missing a tough chance at mid-on, and went on to hit the ball with plenty of power. A short ball from Lalor was smashed for six, and the next one was drilled through the field for four. Lehmann was finally caught the next over, but when Rashid came in and hit his first ball over point for six, the Strikers had salvaged something from the wreck of their destroyed top order. Still, 147 was nowhere near enough against the biggest hitting batting line-up in the league.

In isolation, the Heat may have been able to withstand Lynn’s departure, even coming just after James Peirson had holed out against Head. When it came with a complementary batting collapse, however, they were never going to escape. Joe Burns was undone by Billy Stanlake’s sharp pace and bounce, and popped up a catch for a sliding Rashid. Then Neser, with his first ball, joined the action by ripping through the defences of the red hot Alex Ross with a ball that swung and seamed through the gate. Ben Cutting played some nice shots against Rashid, but fell playing a shot that can best by described as a limp cut shot bunt into the waiting hands of Ingram. Brendon McCullum had opened the batting, and could only witness the chaos from the other end.

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Smiling assassin: Rashid Khan (right) celebrates after his controversial dismissal of Chris Lynn.

Gannon joined him after Cutting departed, and began to play some nice shots, but it was hard to see any means by which the Heat could be saved from themselves. Eventually McCullum, completely starved of strike and frustrated by the effort of stifling his usual belligerence at the crease, looked to take on Neser and gave away his wicket. It was over. All the Strikers had to do was go through the motions, as some bizarre running from Gannon cost Lalor his wicket. It was Peter Siddle who completed it off his own bowling, picking the ball up at Lalor’s feet and calmly throwing down the bowler’s end stumps. On a New Year’s Eve night, the only thing resembling fireworks was the lighting up of the specially coloured stumps, as Ben Laughlin disposed of Steketee with an unplayable in-swinging yorker and Rashid finally broke through Gannon’s stoic resistance. When Mitchell Swepson holed out to give Laughlin a third wicket, it concluded a game which had been going through the motions for some time. The Heat showed no resilience or determination, and paid a heavy price.

Top 5
1. Michael Neser (Adelaide Strikers)
Neser was the sole reason the Strikers had a total to defend, hitting some excellent shots in the closing overs of the innings on his way to a valuable 40 not out. He took two key wickets in the second innings and was very hard to get away, finishing with 2/7 and the scalps of Ross and McCullum to complete a perfect game.
2. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin was once again in the wickets, finishing with 3/11, and bowled as well as he has all season. He removed Steketee with a perfectly delivered yorker, and his skills were on full display as he backed up his teammates’ devastating PowerPlay with some accurate and very clever bowling to dismiss Cutting.
3. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid was again in top form with the ball, getting hit around by Cutting but otherwise delivering with the massive wicket of Lynn and the removal of top scorer Gannon. He turned the ball both ways with ease, grabbed a catch and hit a six with his first ball faced in the Big Bash to complete an entertaining all-round game.
4. Yasir Shah (Brisbane Heat)
Yasir showed the class that made him one of the best bowlers in world cricket, removing Head and Ingram to drive a wedge through the Strikers middle order on his way to excellent figures of 2/18. He mixed things up well and barely bowled a bad ball, and looks like an good choice to replace Shadab Khan as the Heat’s overseas player.
5. Josh Lalor (Brisbane Heat)
Lalor was very good with ball in hand, removing both Strikers openers and creating plenty of issues with his ability to swing the ball back in to the left-handers. He was expensive towards the end of his spell, but dismissed Rashid immediately after being hit for six to finish with a well-deserved three wickets.

Temperamental Sixers fall short as Strikers march on

Sydney Sixers vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 167-3 (Carey 83*, Wells 33*, Head 29, Dwarshuis 41-2) def Sydney Sixers 161-8 (Silk 50, O’Keefe 28, Botha 25, Rashid 22-2, Stanlake 31-2, Laughlin 39-2, Neser 42-2) by 6 runs at SCG

The Adelaide Strikers came close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, before seemingly deciding that victory was the preferred option and closing the game out for their second win of the season. It was a pair of swashbuckling innings from Steve O’Keefe and Ben Dwarshuis which threatened to get the Sydney Sixers over the line, as luck and the odd powerful shot combined to give the visitors a major late scare. 18 came off Ben Laughlin’s 19th over, and when Michael Neser, defending 16 off the last over, saw his first ball hit over mid-wicket for six, the comeback was well and truly on. It was not to be, as Neser regained his composure and sent down a series of perfect yorkers to end the match and, finally, seal a well-deserved Strikers win.

The Strikers began inauspiciously, with Jake Weatherald skying one from Dwarshuis with the first ball of the over and departing for a duck. Alex Carey and Travis Head initially steadied and then struck out, with Carey hitting a pair of towering sixes off Dwarshuis and Head hitting a wide ball for six over cover. Both timed the ball well, with Head especially prolific through point, and soon the Strikers seemed to be in a very strong position. Then Head got out. Johan Botha, standing in as captain in the absence of Moises Henriques, made the breakthrough, slipping one of his quick off breaks through Head’s sweep shot and allowing Sam Billings to whip off the bails.

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Full flow: Alex Carey hits through the off-side during his classy 83 not out.

Meanwhile, Carey continued to march on. Colin Ingram again looked out of sorts before top edging a pull shot, but Carey looked utterly unfazed as he built his innings. He hit a pair of well-timed boundaries against Will Somerville and a nice cut shot against Dwarshuis, and brought up his 50 in the 14th over. He was still there when the innings concluded on 3/167, finishing on 83 not out with some nice late overs hitting even as he tired. It was Jonathan Wells who provided the final flourish, however, seizing the initiative with some clean hitting and inventiveness. A ramp shot off Abbott ran to the boundary as Wells didn’t even bother to look back, and the highlight came when he belted Dwarshuis onto the roof with the penultimate ball of the innings. He finished with an unbeaten 33, as the Strikers hit 17 off the last over to finish on a high.

The Sixers began well enough, but the wheels soon started to fall off. Jason Roy started with some well hit boundaries, but Daniel Hughes was out early at the other end, falling for a well-executed trap and picking out the strategically placed Wells. Nic Maddinson fell victim to an excellent catch, with Carey continuing a brilliant game by sticking out a glove and holding on, and when Roy went for a big shot and saw himself caught by Jake Lehmann the Sixers were in dire straits as they ended the PowerPlay on 3/42.

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Air swing: Johan Botha has a look of immense concentration as he attempts a switch hit, but fails to make contact all the same.

At this point Jordan Silk came into his own. Brought into the side to replace Henriques, he looked fluent from the moment he came to the crease, hitting some very neat strokes through the off side to get going. He was unflustered when Rashid Khan uprooted Billings’ off stump, and joined with Botha in a partnership which stemmed the flow of wickets even while they struggled to make headway. Soon Silk had hit his stride, and cover drives off Laughlin and Head allowed him to bring up a brisk half-century as the Sixers began to mount a charge. Then it was over. Rashid stepped up again, returning to the attack and cramping Silk for room with a clumsy cut shot clipping the top of off stump. His wicket looked to have killed the game off once and for all. O’Keefe ensured it was still barely alive.

With Silk’s departure, O’Keefe came to the crease. He had been conspicuously absent from the bowling crease, but now seized his opportunity to impact the game. He swung hard from the start, with 17 coming from Neser’s third over as an edge and a well hit pull shot went to the boundary. Botha fell in the next over, and when Sean Abbott gave himself room and missed the ball completely as it cannoned into middle stump, the game looked completely over. In the end, not even the lusty swings of Dwarshuis and O’Keefe could save the Sixers, as Neser’s calm finished ensured they fell to a third consecutive defeat. The Strikers reinforced their status as title hopefuls, while the Sixers finals hopes are hanging by a thread, as disappointing top-order efforts continue to plague their season.

Top 5
1. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey was rock solid throughout the Strikers’ innings, providing a perfect foundation and hitting some very nice shots on his way to a solid 83 not out. He combined particularly well with Head and Wells, and his keeping was as sharp as ever. Capped his night off with a brilliant one-handed catch in a deserved man-of-the-match performance.
2. Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)
Silk gave the Sixers an outside chance with his calmness under pressure, despite being the least-heralded member of the Sixers’ theoretically strong batting line-up. He played the ball beautifully through the off-side, and finished with a very nice 50. He is unlikely to be dropped now, even when Henriques returns to the side.
3. Jonathan Wells (Adelaide Strikers)
Wells gave the Strikers the late impetus they needed to post a strong total, improvising nicely but also displaying tremendous power. His hit onto the roof of the Bill O’Reilly Stand was a remarkable one, and capped off an excellent innings.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid showed his class once again, starting slowly but building into it as his spell progressed. He removed Billings just as he was looking to attack, and his dismissal of Silk seemed to seal the game for the Strikers. He mixed things up well, and barely bowled a bad ball in four overs.
5. Ben Dwarshuis (Sydney Sixers)
Dwarshuis grabbed a pair of important wickets, and generally bowled well even if he was on the end of some extraordinary hitting. His batting at the end of the innings gave the Sixers a fighting chance, as he hit a pair of big sixes and combined fearlessly with O’Keefe to give the Strikers a massive scare.