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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Thunder hold on against Scorchers onslaught

Sydney Thunder vs Perth Scorchers
Sydney Thunder 175-4 (Khawaja 85, Ferguson 25, Bresnan 38-2) def Perth Scorchers 172-4 (Bancroft 75*, Cartwright 65*) by 3 runs at Spotless Stadium

The Perth Scorchers required 5 runs to win off 1 ball, with Hilton Cartwright on strike. The Australian international had already taken 19 runs from Mitchell McClenaghan’s last over. The Sydney Thunder, who had ridden the wave of Usman Khawaja’s brilliant form to dominate from start to finish, were now struggling to close out a victory which should have been sealed long before the last over. There was a delay as Cartwright had his bat fixed, and the tension continued to build. After what seemed like an eternity, McClenaghan bowled. Cartwright could only manage a single. The Thunder had survived, and the Scorchers, the kings of the comeback, had fallen agonisingly short.

The Scorchers had done well to get so close. They had dug themselves out of plenty of garden-variety holes in the past, but in this game they had fallen into an abyss. Their pursuit of the Thunder’s first innings 175 couldn’t have started in a worse fashion. Will Bosisto showed some early aggression, but was sent back when he hit a short leg-side ball straight to Fawad Ahmed. Michael Klinger tried to take on mid-off, but couldn’t get enough power and was caught. Ashton Turner, coming into the game in brilliant form, was trapped in front by a Gurinder Sandhu yorker. Adam Voges was clean bowled when Ahmed entered the attack, leaving the Scorchers 4/35 and in dire straits. At this point, with the game all but over, Cartwright walked out to the wicket to join Cameron Bancroft.

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Fightback: Hilton Cartwright looks to go big during his unbeaten 65.

Bancroft had come in at number 3, and had watched the carnage unfold from the other end in his first BBL game of an up-and-down season. He was the one member of the Australian side who never really performed during the Ashes, and spent the last part of the series subjected to queries about his technique, his temperament and, in general, his batting ability. Now, he had a chance to show his class, and he took it well. He played maturely as he looked to steady the ship, but started to find the fence with more regularity as the innings progressed. That was when he began to give chances, with Khawaja dropping him while running back at cover and Ben Rohrer putting down a very high top edge. He responded to the latter dropping by bringing up fifty with a four and a six, and gave some indication that the miss might be a costly one. He continued to find the fence and play some nice shots in the final overs, but by then Cartwright had taken over.

Cartwright came in with the Scorchers looking gone for all money. Voges had just been bowled by a ripping wrong-un from Ahmed, and it appeared as if they would face a struggle to get to 100, let alone 175. He started slowly, struggling to find much timing and dealing almost exclusively in singles. Jay Lenton missed a chance to stump him when he was on 7, but it didn’t look particularly costly. He showed glimpses of his best, such as a big six to the long boundary, but glimpses were not nearly enough against the tidy spin of Ahmed and Arjun Nair. Then, with 74 runs needed off 30 balls, he started to find the fence. Chris Green was hit for a four and a six, and when Cartwright was dropped later in the over it looked like a very bad error. He brought up fifty with the first ball of the last over, and followed it up by hitting the next ball into the Spotless Stadium roof. He continued to hit twos, and he just needed one more boundary to seal a remarkable comeback. He couldn’t get one away, and the Thunder could finally relax after a far-from-comfortable finish.

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Big jump: Will Bosisto goes aerial to deny Ben Rohrer a six with some great fielding.

Their first innings total was underpinned by Khawaja’s stunning 85. When Khawaja is at his most fluent it feels like the game situation is irrelevant, and the scoreboard just doesn’t matter. He wasn’t quite at that level on his return to the BBL from a fighting 171 against the English, but he raced to his half-century with remarkable ease, playing some beautiful strokes along the way. Early on, the quick bowlers were pulled and flicked, and Voges’ decision to use the part-time off-spin of Bosisto backfired as the Test number 3 caressed him around the ground with contempt. When Shane Watson departed after playing a big shot and getting caught on the boundary, Khawaja responded by launching Tim Bresnan for a pair of sixes and hitting Ashton Agar for a towering six over mid-on. He continued to make batting look ridiculously simple, hitting every ball out of the middle of the bat as he cruised towards what seemed an inevitable century. Then it was over, an uncharacteristic slash at a wide ball from Agar presenting Klinger with a simple catch.

At the other end, his partners were made to look sub-par as they struggled to match his input. Kurtis Patterson hit a few boundaries, but never looked like getting going before edging one to Bancroft off the impressive bowling of debutant Matt Kelly. Watson put away the bad balls well, but his big shot against Bresnan brought about his downfall, and Callum Ferguson never threatened to set the world alight before he drilled a pull shot straight to Cartwright at deep mid-wicket. Rohrer hit a couple of nice shots, but some athletic fielding from Bosisto in saving a six ensured that a big straight hit in the last over was his only boundary. Despite the unsatisfying end, 175 looked like a very good score when the second innings began. In the end, thanks to the Scorchers’ never-say-die attitude, it was only just enough.

Top 5
1. Usman Khawaja (Sydney Thunder)
Khawaja was at his fluent best, not missing a beat in transitioning from Test cricket to the BBL and hitting graceful boundaries all over the ground. He looked a cut above the rest, and his return to the ranks bodes very well for the rest of the Thunder’s season, provided he is not given an ODI call-up.
2. Cameron Bancroft (Perth Scorchers)
Bancroft was not in the best of form throughout the Ashes, but his hard-fought 75 held the Scorchers’ innings together just as it looked like they were going to be rolled. He hit the ball powerfully through mid-on, and showed great fight to nearly get his side over the line. He kept solidly, and benefitted from being given a bit more freedom to play his shots.
3. Gurinder Sandhu (Sydney Thunder)
Sandhu was the pick of the Thunder’s bowlers, swinging the ball in the PowerPlay to put the Scorchers under pressure and showing great composure in conceding just 7 runs off the nineteenth over of the innings. He was hard to get away despite his lack of pace, and bowled with metronomic accuracy and plenty of intelligence.
4. Hilton Cartwright (Perth Scorchers)
Cartwright started slowly, but played with more fight than most of his teammates and found his power at the end of the innings. His composure and controlled hitting nearly got the Scorchers over the line, and he caused some nervous moments for the home crowd in taking 20 from the last over. His straight six against McClenaghan in the final over hit the roof, showing just how hard he can hit the ball.
5. Fawad Ahmed (Sydney Thunder)
Ahmed turned the ball both ways, and his entrance into the attack led to a sharp drop in the run rate. He bowled Voges with a ripping wrong-un, and he was unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Cartwright with a similar delivery. His variety was excellent, and he executed well whenever he was given the ball.