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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