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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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.

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.

Turner stars to take Scorchers home

Perth Scorchers vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 185-3 (White 68*, Cooper 57, Harris 48, Tye 36-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 186-5 (Turner 70, Willey 55, Agar 26*) by 5 wickets at WACA Ground

For over 20 years, Brad Hogg had been a hero for crowds at the WACA, whether playing for Western Australia or the Perth Scorchers. Now, playing in the colours of the Melbourne Renegades, he was taking an emotional last bow in his final game at the ground before the Scorchers’ relocation to their flash new stadium. Things were going well for Hogg. He had removed Hilton Cartwright with an excellent delivery, and the Renegades were on top. The ageless 46-year-old proved he was still the fan favourite, signing autographs for the parochial home fans. It was amidst this backdrop of adulation and autograph opportunities that he received a chance to all but end the game.

Ashton Turner was on 16, and facing Jack Wildermuth. He slashed too hard at the ball, and it was sliced straight to Hogg at third man. He ran in, attempted to set himself, and made a meal of the straightforward catch, as the Scorchers’ most threatening batsman survived. Hogg, for perhaps the last time at the WACA, received a standing ovation and acknowledged it, arms outstretched and facing the fans with a wide grin, like the born showman he is. If only he had known how costly his gaffe would be.

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Recovery: Ashton Turner hits out during his match-winning 70.

Turner gave some indication a few balls later, effortlessly launching Wildermuth for six over long-on. Soon he was in unstoppable touch. Wildermuth was ramped twice in successive balls, and carved clinically through point. At the other end, Hogg came on to repair the damage, and David Willey hit him for a pair of boundaries to bring up a fairly slow but important half-century. Kane Richardson was edged down to third man for four. Even the departure of Willey, who looked to go big against Richardson but could only find the man, could not halt the Scorchers’ momentum.

The time had come for Hogg to bowl his last ball at the WACA. Ashton Agar had joined Turner in finding the fence to put the Renegades under pressure, but Hogg had proved up to the test. Three runs had come off his first five balls, and the Scorchers needed a boundary. Turner, now on 58 after his reprieve on 16, received a high full toss, and couldn’t have put it away any better. To add insult to injury, a no-ball was called, and the free hit received similar treatment. Hogg had smiled all day, even when dropping a key catch and getting hit around. He had looked like he was having fun. Now, having been hit for 13 off his last legitimate delivery at his old home ground, the anguish was writ large on his face even as he sought to continue his bubbly charade. The rest of the chase was far from smooth, with Turner and Adam Voges run out before Agar took the Scorchers over the line, but the Renegades were just not good enough as the massive target was run down.

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Innovation: Tom Cooper plays one of his ramp shots during his crafty half-century.

The Scorchers only had themselves to blame for needing so many runs in the first place. Aaron Finch was dropped second ball, and although he was dismissed with the next delivery he faced, from the in-form Mitchell Johnson, it was a sign of what was to come. Marcus Harris played some nice shots, but gave plenty of chances the Scorchers could not take, and they allowed him to move to 48 before he finally picked out Turner at point. At this point, the Scorchers began to tighten the net. Tom Cooper couldn’t get going, even after being given a life by Josh Inglis’ terrible effort at a high catch. He was on one at the time.

With four overs to go, the Renegades were 2/122. Then Cooper, who had been subdued for his whole innings, got going against some very poor death bowling from Jhye Richardson. Richardson’s bowling has gone downhill ever since his selection for the Australian ODI team, and he bowled with no plan as Cooper used his pace against him expertly. The Dutch international hit the ball all around the field and toyed with the bowlers, and the run rate skyrocketed. At the other end, Cameron White was at his dependable best, and as the Scorchers fell apart he capitalised as well. Both brought up half-centuries, and the tally of 63 runs from the last four overs was an indictment on the Scorchers’ death bowlers. When Klinger was dismissed by Mohammad Nabi for a golden duck and Willey struggled to get going, the hosts looked set for a second straight loss. But for Turner’s intervention and Hogg’s costly drop, a second straight loss would have come to pass, in a game which perfectly summed up the contradictory feelings of fragility and invincibility which have surrounded the Scorchers’ performances this season.

Top 5
1. Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
Turner took the game by the scruff of the neck with a dominant innings, launching plenty of sixes and running brilliantly to score 70 at over two runs a ball. He batted deep into the innings and ensured that by the time he was dismissed the Scorchers were firmly in the box seat. He looks to be in excellent form, and ready for the rest of the tournament.
2. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White anchored the Renegades’ innings with another big contribution, batting as if he was never going to get out and keeping his coolness even when the Scorchers piled on the pressure in the middle overs. He began to find the boundary towards the end of the innings, and allowed the Renegades to set a formidable target.
3. Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper accelerated rapidly to raise a lightning half-century following a slow start, and closed the innings out with power and innovation. He benefitted from a horrendous missed catch from Inglis, but he looks to have found good touch following a pair of games in which he was not called upon to bat.
4. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey bowled lucklessly as a couple of catches went down off his bowling, but he excelled with bat in hand in compiling a solid half-century. He hit some nice shots, and his form improved greatly as the innings progressed. His ability to hang around following the early departure of Klinger gave the Scorchers the platform they needed to win the game.
5. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was not as tight as he has been in previous games, but he was still fairly solid with ball in hand and closed out the game well with the bat. He hit some very nice sixes to alleviate any late pressure, and sealed the win with a very well struck cover drive. He showed excellent composure, and looks to have found some good form with the bat.

Scorchers can’t take the Heat as Cutting and Doggett shine

Brisbane Heat vs Perth Scorchers
Brisbane Heat 191-6 (Cutting 46, Lynn 39, Burns 36, McCullum 32, Willey 40-2) def Perth Scorchers 142 (Agar 31, Willey 25, Doggett 35-5, Steketee 28-3) by 49 runs at the Gabba

All through this season, the Perth Scorchers have dug themselves out of holes, and have won from all kinds of positions. They haven’t looked perfect, but they have always done just enough to come through with the win. This time, however, things were different. The Brisbane Heat got off to a flying start, and the Scorchers’ usually dependable bowling attack had no answer as they were belted to all areas of the Gabba and never got themselves back in the game. The Heat were just too good, as the Scorchers winning run was ended in the most emphatic way possible.

The Heat seized the early initiative, with Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum finding their destructive best. Lynn’s innings alternated between streaky and destructive, with edges through the slips and fine leg combining with some breathtaking displays of raw power. Jhye Richardson and Andrew Tye were flayed through the covers, and David Willey was slapped contemptuously back over his head. When McCullum began to join in the act, the Heat’s tally had reached 0/57 off 5 overs and the Scorchers looked as if they would be blown away. Then they recovered. Willey started it by removing Lynn, who had always looked like the danger man. He was cramped for room and could only hit the ball straight up as Michael Klinger took a tumbling catch. Balls later, McCullum was nearly dismissed too, as second-gamer Tim David dropped a relatively straightforward catch on the boundary. It could have been costly, but it wasn’t.

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Powerful: Ben Cutting hits the ball onto the leg-side during his brutal 46.

Ashton Agar and Joel Paris brought about the Heat’s middle overs struggles. Neither McCullum nor Sam Heazlett could get the ball to the fence, and soon both were gone. Heazlett was the first to succumb, picking out David on the edge of the ridiculously short boundary on one side of the ground, and McCullum chipped one to cover the next over. When Alex Ross, so often the reassuring presence for the Heat this season, was bowled by a ripping Richardson yorker, the Scorchers appeared to have turned things around completely. Then the short boundary came into play. Joe Burns did what few others have and launched the dangerous Tye over the rope three times in an over, and plundered the tournament’s leading wicket-taker for 23 off six balls. Then Ben Cutting got in on the act.

Cutting had arrived at the crease with the Heat in a bit of trouble following the dismissal of Alex Ross, and looked to have ended his stay at the crease before it had begun when he top edged a sweep shot off Agar. Tye looked slightly lackadaisical as he ran in to take the catch and slid forwards in an attempt to take it, and it went to ground. It was a costly miss, but Cutting still hadn’t got going as Burns launched his assault at the other end. Then Paris came on, with the short boundary on the leg-side. Two full tosses were dispatched, along with a half-volley, and Cutting never looked back. When Richardson served up a full toss on his hip, it was helped on its way, and in the last over Willey was belted to the long boundary as Cutting flew to 46 off just 19 balls. He was out the next ball, but his big-hitting had carried the Heat to a total of 6/191 which looked too big for the Scorchers.

The Scorchers never had the firepower to finish off the chase. Michael Klinger hit some nice shots, but had no support from the out-of-sorts Willey and was dismissed as he slashed hard at Mark Steketee but lost his shape. Hilton Cartwright was gone for a golden duck, edging a length ball to a diving Burns at slip. Ashton Turner negotiated the hat-trick ball and Willey closed out the over with an ugly slash for three, but the Scorchers already looked out of the contest. They were an unconvincing 2/38 when the PowerPlay closed, as the Heat tightened the screws.

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Game over: Ashton Turner makes the long walk back after being dismissed by Brendan Doggett.

Willey’s innings lasted a long time but never really got out of first gear. He could barely score singles as the innings started, and it didn’t improve even when he helped a short leg-side ball from Brendan Doggett to the boundary. He was only going at a run a ball after depositing Yasir Shah over his head for six, and was out the next over, his occupation ending as he hit Mitchell Swepson straight to Burns. Any hopes of a flurry of boundaries from the hard-hitting Englishman evaporated, and after his departure the Scorchers didn’t look a chance. Turner played a ramp shot for four and was dismissed the next ball, chipping a catch to Swepson. It was over.

Agar started to give the Scorchers a faint hope as he carted Swepson for a pair of sixes. Then Voges was dismissed, hitting the ball too flat and picking out the man on the rope. Agar swung hard, but his efforts were futile as he found deep mid-wicket, and with his dismissal the Scorchers’ hopes of a Lazarus-style comeback were finally extinguished. Doggett removed Josh Inglis, David, Tye and Paris late to collect five wickets for the match, but his haul was merely a postscript to a game which was meandering to its inevitable conclusion. The final margin of 49 runs reflected the gap between the sides perfectly, as the Scorchers’ aura of invincibility was shattered by a match in which they were outbatted, outbowled and outfielded by a better side. The Heat go top of the table, with the caveat of more games played than their competition, and are starting to look like a force to be reckoned with.

Top 5
1. Ben Cutting (Brisbane Heat)
Cutting was in excellent touch with the bat, playing himself in before exploding in the closing overs to take the Heat to an unassailable total. He hit the ball with tremendous power through mid-wicket, and showed good maturity to play himself in with his side under pressure. His bowling was far from spectacular, but he showed enough consistency to justify his selection as the fifth bowler.
2. Brendan Doggett (Brisbane Heat)
Doggett capitalised as the game finished with a flurry of wickets and boundaries, bowling a consistent line and length and removing four batsmen late as they looked to go for the slog. His wicket of Turner came just as he was looking to get a move on, and all but ended the Scorchers’ chances. Put in an extraordinary effort in the field.
3. Chris Lynn (Brisbane Heat)
Lynn found his dominant best in a big way to get the Heat off to a flying start, and looks perfectly at home opening the innings. He showed brutal power straight and through the covers, and his rapid start after receiving a bit of early luck put the Scorchers on the back foot. His efforts ensured the Heat will be sorry to lose him to international duty so soon after his return.
4. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar returned from his brief stay with the Test squad to deliver an all-round performance of excellent quality, bowling in the right areas to halt the Heat’s early momentum and top-scoring for his side with a well made 31. He hit the ball nicely throughout, and his calmness under pressure with both bat and ball was a rare highlight for the Scorchers.
5. Mark Steketee (Brisbane Heat)
Steketee finished with three massive wickets after an excellent bowling performance. His dismissals of Klinger and Cartwright drove a wedge through the Scorchers’ top order, and he removed Agar just as he looked to get going to cap off a great bowling performance. He found pace, consistency and some nice bounce, and has stepped up to lead the pace attack well.

Masterful Klinger guides Scorchers home

Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers
Sydney Sixers 167-4 (Silk 45*, Billings 33, Nevill 33, Maddinson 30, Willey 30-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 170-4 (Klinger 83, Turner 45, Sams 25-2) by 6 wickets at the WACA

Hilton Cartwright had just hit a pair of beautiful cover drives for four, as Steve O’Keefe pitched up and was whacked by virtue of lightning footwork and even faster hands. He needed to recover, and Cartwright, deprived of width, could only work the ball into the leg-side, straight to Johan Botha. Then Cartwright ran. He was sent back by Michael Klinger, who saw the dangers immediately, and was caught out by a long way as Peter Nevill whipped off the bails. The score was 2/17 after three overs, and the Scorchers, chasing 168, looked finished as Ashton Turner walked to the crease.

For the first time this season, the Scorchers had looked distinctly off colour. Mitchell Johnson was as tight as ever but didn’t have the penetration. Jhye Richardson, in presenting Nevill with a series of short, wide offerings, was not even tight. In their first three games, the Scorchers took a total of ten wickets in the PowerPlay. Here, they took one, as David Willey trapped Jason Roy lbw with a ball that pitched outside leg. For the first time in this tournament, the Sixers got off to a good start with the bat as Nic Maddinson and Nevill stroked the ball with ease. Nevill eventually departed to James Muirhead’s first ball, a wide half-volley which drew a poorly played slog and saw Daniel Hughes’ very late replacement stumped. Maddinson was a victim of a great catch from Andrew Tye, who threw it up after taking the ball, tripped on the rope and recouped it well, but he can have no complaints given the horribly played slog that was his downfall.

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Full flight: Jordan Silk hits another well-timed cover drive during his 45.

Sam Billings joined Jordan Silk and the pair ensured the innings had a big finish. They looked slightly below par even with some big hitting from Billings against the part-time spin of Adam Voges. They still looked below par as Silk was dropped by Cartwright, and when Tye outsmarted Billings to finish the eighteenth over on a high the Sixers looked to be in trouble. Then Ben Dwarshuis joined Silk, and a rapid finish ensued. Willey didn’t have the variety to bowl at the death, and Silk grabbed a pair of boundaries, before Dwarshuis, promoted for the mad dash at the end, hit Richardson for a towering six and a crushing four to set the Scorchers a big target.

With Cartwright’s dismissal following Willey’s failure as a pinch hitter, Klinger and Turner had a massive job to do. Turner was nearly run out early, but he recovered and soon both had found their touch. Klinger hit Dwarshuis for a pair of fours through the off-side, the second beating two diving fielders on its way to the fence. Roy, diving to his left, dropped a near impossible catch as Klinger drilled a cut shot, and Daniel Sams was subsequently hit for a big six over mid-wicket. Will Somerville, bowling canny off-spin to cover for an injury to O’Keefe, kept the runs down and nearly had Turner caught, as the Scorchers failed to make any real progress.

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Concentration: Michael Klinger hits to the off-side during his masterful 83.

Then Turner started to get a few away. Sean Abbott pitched too short and was dispatched over mid-wicket. Botha was hit for an effortless straight six. Abbott’s next over saw Klinger get one over the off side and Turner toe one through a vacant long-on for another four. Maddinson came on with an over of part time left-arm spin. It was a catastrophe, with a full toss hit for a straight six by Turner and the last ball drilled for four by Klinger. Then came the drop. It was Dwarshuis, who couldn’t have had it any easier as Turner took on Somerville and miscued badly. Turner was on 41, and sat on 44 by the end of the over, while Klinger raised an ominously comfortable half-century. The drop looked to be the big moment. It wasn’t. Turner only added four more run before skying one off Sams, this time finding the safe hands of Silk and bringing debutant Tim David to the crease. The Scorchers needed 11 an over, and now they needed something special.

It was Klinger who provided. One of Australian cricket’s most consistent performers, he stood up when he was needed, with David assisting him ably. The debutant hit his second ball for a graceful six over long-off, and when Klinger decided to match him with a powerful slog, the Scorchers sat in a solid position even when Dwarshuis delivered an excellent death over as the hosts failed to find the boundary. Then things happened very fast. Abbott lost his cool as Klinger hit him for a hat-trick of boundaries, before Sams recovered with a tight over and the wicket of Klinger, gone for 83. With 7 balls left, fifteen were required. It took two legitimate deliveries, with David hitting Sams for an incredible straight six before Abbott collapsed, five wides down the leg side removing all the pressure before Voges got a full toss away for six. The Sixers looked to have done enough, but the Scorchers were, as ever, just too good when it mattered.

Top 5
1. Michael Klinger (Perth Scorchers)
Klinger played a flawless innings of 83 to get the Scorchers over the line, using all of his experience and class and managing the game to perfection. He whittled the target down with a smattering of boundaries throughout the innings, and never lost his composure even when the Scorchers lost early wickets.
2. Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
Turner salvaged the innings with his big-hitting, providing the Scorchers with the momentum they needed to complete the chase. He hit the ball beautifully to turn the game in the Scorchers’ favour, and despite benefitting from a fair slice of luck he looks to be a good option at number four.
3. Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)
Silk top scored with another excellent innings, hitting the ball around well at the end and finding plenty of timing and power. He finished just five runs shy of his half-century, and gave the Sixers a chance of setting an imposing target of 167. He is seeing the ball very well.
4. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey was the pick of the Scorchers’ bowlers, and despite an expensive last over he ensured they kept the target down with a pair of big wickets. He had a bit of luck with a favourable lbw decision, and couldn’t give anything with the bat, but his bowling at key points in the innings was dependable and kept the runs down well.
5. Daniel Sams (Sydney Sixers)
Sams was the pick of the Sixers’ bowlers, delivering when it mattered with the wickets of Turner and Klinger and an excellent penultimate over which gave them a chance. He is clearly the Sixers’ best death bowling option, and despite the odd bad ball he looks to be a good prospect for the future.

Bowlers dominate as Scorchers limp home

Melbourne Renegades vs Perth Scorchers
Melbourne Renegades 130-9 (Cooper 34, Harris 32, Johnson 13-3, Tye 37-3) lost to Perth Scorchers 133-7 (Klinger 37, Willey 31, Hogg 16-2) by 3 wickets at Etihad Stadium

Andrew Tye stood at the top of his mark to bowl the last ball of his second over, having already conceded 15 runs thanks to a monstrous pull shot from Marcus Harris and a big hit over mid-wicket from Tom Cooper. The third wicket partnership had added 63, and both looked set for big scores. Cooper looked to take Tye on again, saw the ball slip through onto his stumps and sparked a collapse that ultimately sealed the Melbourne Renegades’ fate. They failed to defend their meagre total despite some excellent bowling, as the Perth Scorchers kept their perfect record intact with a masterful bowling performance.

Cooper and Harris had dragged the Renegades out of a Mitchell Johnson-induced hole. Johnson bowled with plenty of pace and was too good for Aaron Finch and Cameron White. The Renegades captain failed again, dismissed in the first over after fending at one and getting a fine edge, and White never looked settled before helping the ball around the corner into the waiting hands of Jhye Richardson. The Scorchers couldn’t make further inroads, with Cooper continuing his good form and Harris playing one of his typically classy knocks.

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Very high catch: Adam Voges completes the catch after Nabi’s remarkable skied ball nearly hits the Etihad Stadium roof.

When Harris was incorrectly adjudged leg before the over after Cooper departed, the Scorchers smelled blood, and did what they do best. Adam Voges reintroduced Johnson and was rewarded as his premier quick made a mockery of Brad Hodge’s defence, and Jack Wildermuth never looked comfortable before he fell trying to hit out against Richardson. Dwayne Bravo found some early momentum with boundaries off his second and third balls, but that had stalled by the time he fell, with David Willey nabbing a return catch. Tim Ludeman played an ill-advised ramp shot against Tye and was bowled, and Mohammad Nabi was caught after hitting the ball so high it nearly grazed the roof before coming down for Voges to take a remarkable catch. The Renegades had lost 7/53, and looked absolutely gone.

The Scorchers started their chase in cruise control, as calm knocks from Michael Klinger and Willey got them off to a perfect start. They were 0/49 after the PowerPlay, with Willey starting to find his power and Klinger showing unflappable temperament. Even when the Benjamin Button-esque Brad Hogg bowled masterfully to remove Willey and Ashton Agar, it only seemed to delay the inevitable. Klinger and Voges got the Scorchers back on track, and when Klinger departed a couple of overs later Hilton Cartwright smoothly filled the void. The Scorchers were still cruising towards an inevitable victory.

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Chaos: Kane Richardson (right) runs out a desperate Jhye Richardson in the closing overs of the match.

The Scorchers were nearing their target when Cartwright was dismissed, holing out to Cooper on the boundary. Suddenly, the Scorchers’ aura of calm seemed to shatter, and with just 18 runs needed they began to fall apart. Voges was run out in freakish circumstances, his bat caught in the Etihad Stadium turf as Ludeman ripped out the off stump. Then Josh Inglis, much like Ludeman in the first innings, played an addle-brained ramp shot and was bowled by Bravo. Jhye Richardson dived half the pitch in a vain attempt to make his ground, but Kane Richardson was just too quick in getting the ball onto the stumps. Suddenly, there was action every ball, and the game seemed to have descended into madness as there were run out chances every other ball.

Then, just like that, it was all over. Ashton Turner had come in with the wicket of Cartwright, and had been a spectator as Voges got unlucky, Inglis had his brain explosion and Richardson fell well short with his dramatic dive. Now, he was the last recognised batsman, and it was up to him to score the requisite 6 runs in 8 balls. He did it in two, with a six over the cover boundary sealing a nervy win with one over to spare. It was as if the Scorchers had blown out an engine and crawled over the finish line in a tailspin, but the Renegades could not pull off a remarkable comeback even with a brilliant bowling effort. They had dug themselves too deep a hole, and the Scorchers were too good to let them win.

Top 5
1. Mitchell Johnson (Perth Scorchers)
Johnson took 3/13 from his four over spell with a brilliant display of fast bowling. He removed Finch, White and Hodge with his intimidating pace and unerring accuracy, and showed why he is still one of the most feared bowlers in the league. He looks set for another big season.
2. Brad Hogg (Melbourne Renegades)
At 46 years of age, Hogg appeared to be losing some of his touch with some inconsistent early performances. There can be no doubt that the old magic is still there after a miserly and very dangerous bowling effort which gave the Renegades some hope of pulling off the comeback. He threatened with almost every ball he bowled, and looked as good as ever in bagging 2/16.
3. Mohammad Nabi (Melbourne Renegades)
Nabi showed that he is a very wily customer with an effective spell of accurate off spin bowling. He took the big wicket of Klinger and mixed things up well to keep the runs down and build plenty of pressure. He looked composed rather than spectacular with the bat, but hung around for longer than most in compiling 13.
4. Michael Klinger (Perth Scorchers)
Klinger looked set to finish the game off when his calm 37 ended with an untimely edge behind, but he gave the Scorchers the foundation they needed to survive their late collapse. He looked better the longer he spent at the crease, a fact which bodes well for the rest of the season.
5. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey’s role in the Scorchers’ attack seems a little unclear, but he bowled well anyway and picked up the wicket of Bravo as the Scorchers tightened the screws. He was very effective with bat in hand, opening the door for him to become a more permanent fixture at the top of the order.