Preview: BBL|12 Final – Perth Scorchers vs. Brisbane Heat
AFTER 56 regular season games and four postseason bouts, only two teams remain in the hunt for the BBL|12 title. On Saturday at Perth Stadium, reigning champions the Perth Scorchers will look to secure an unprecedented fifth crown, but will have to quell this season’s ultimate underdog, the Brisbane Heat. We run you through all you need to know before the big clash.
NEED TO KNOW
WHO: Perth Scorchers vs. Brisbane Heat
WHEN: Saturday February 4, 4.30pm AWST (7.30pm AEDT)
WHERE: Perth Stadium, Perth
WATCH: Channel 7, Fox Cricket, Kayo Sports
STORY SO FAR
The Eliminator: Brisbane Heat (5-203) def. Sydney Thunder (1-52) by 8 runs (via DLS method).
The Qualifier: Perth Scorchers (3-154) def. Sydney Sixers (8-151) by 7 wickets.
The Knockout: Brisbane Heat (3-164) def. Melbourne Renegades (5-162) by 7 wickets.
The Challenger: Brisbane Heat (6-117) def. Sydney Sixers (9-116) by 4 wickets.
Having scraped into the top five off a dramatic loss, the Heat have made the most of their postseason opportunities with three consecutive wins. Skipper Usman Khawaja cemented his status as a finals specialist with terrific digs against the Thunder and Renegades, while fellow Test batters Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw also proved pivotal in the middle order.
Rain may have aided the Heat’s first victory, but they won fair and square against the third-ranked Renegades, before pulling off an astounding upset against the Sixers. They’ll have to pull off a fourth all-or-nothing away win on the trot to take out a second BBL title.
Meanwhile, the Scorchers’ path to the decider has been much more straightforward. Having been the standout side all season, they finished first on the ladder and despite an early wobble, made light work of their Qualifier run chase against the Sixers. That one win got them to the last game of the season, at home no less. The competitive advantage is theirs.
HEAD TO HEAD
Scorchers – 13
Heat – 7
Scorchers – 2
Heat – 0
The Scorchers’ season and overall record against the Heat is perfectly indicative of their hold on the competition. A win on Saturday would see them notch up exactly double the wins of Brisbane in their head-to-head ledger, and make it six-straight wins over the Heat. Further to that, it would be the Scorchers’ ninth win in their last 10 encounters with the Queensland club.
In BBL|12, the Scorchers took out both matches against Brisbane, doing so within five days. First up, Cameron Bancroft and Aaron Hardie helped chase down the Heat’s total of 171, before Hardie and Josh Inglis spearheaded a second successful chase of 155. Though, for all the numbers stacked against the Heat, they will hope to repeat the history of a grand final victory over Perth in BBL|02.
Scorchers – 1st, 11-3 (1-0 finals), 1.205 NRR
Heat – 5th, 6-7, 1NR (3-0 finals), -0.483 NRR
Scorchers (4-1) – WWWWL
Heat (4-1) – WWWLW
Barring a slip-up against Hobart in the final regular season round, Brisbane has arguably been the form side of the competition in the back-end of its campaign. Including three finals victories, the Heat have won in seven of their last eight outings. Now, they’re the lowest ranked finals contender taking it to the top dogs.
The Scorchers’ only loss in their last eight games came against the second-ranked Sixers, who both sides dispatched most recently. That poises the two teams nicely against one another, with the Heat’s feat of winning three-straight knockout finals away from home holding up well. A fourth would be incredible.
Before looking at likely lineups, it’s important to note who won’t be playing in Saturday’s final. Perth will be without quicks Jhye Richardson (hamstring) and Lance Morris (Test squad), with Matt Kelly likely to take his place in the XI over spinner Peter Hatzoglou. Like Morris, Ashton Agar is another first choice player who is touring with the Test team.
That leaves Bancroft to open alongside Stephen Eskinazi with Hardie at first drop. Josh Inglis with take the gloves and bat four in front of skipper Ashton Turner, while Nick Hobson and Cooper Connolly fill out the middle order.
The Scorchers’ bowling attack will be spearheaded by Jason Behrendorff in the power play, with Andrew Tye also key to the cause. Kelly and David Payne make it a four-pronged pace attack, with the option of a spinner to be overlooked.
Major changes were made to the Heat lineup last time out. Captain Khawaja, Labuschagne, and Renshaw left significant gaps upon their departure on the Test tour of India, while leggie Mitch Swepson would have been a handy middle-overs weapon.
Atop the new-look batting order, Sam Heazlett and Josh Brown did some promising things in The Challenger, and there should be some quick runs in the likes of Nathan McSweeney, Sam Hain, Max Bryant, and keeper-captain Jimmy Peirson.
As has been proven, Michael Neser and James Bazley can hold the willow but will have significant roles to play with the ball. Xavier Bartlett and Spencer Johnson round out a very handy quartet of seamers, with Matt Kuhnemann the primary spinner.
Scorchers – Aaron Hardie
A breakout season has put Hardie in the frame for future International honours, and the 24-year-old allrounder is a chance to finish the campaign with more runs than anyone. Hardie’s promotion to number three saw him compile 443 runs to date, including a high score of 90* among his four half-centuries. He can also contribute with the ball having snared four wickets at 21.25 in BBL|12.
Heat – Michael Neser
The recently crowned domestic player of the year can do it all across each format, and was the Heat’s hero against the Sixers with both bat and ball. Despite his knack for late runs, Neser’s persistent seamers are his primary weapon and have seen him snare 26 wickets at 17.57 in BBL|12. Three four-wicket hauls on the season suggest he can take the game away from the opposition quickly.
Given the history between these two sides and the sheer depth of class at Perth’s disposal, it is difficult to look past a fifth Scorchers title. They play their home ground so well and the long journey over to Western Australia for a fourth-straight away final may prove too big an ask for Brisbane. The Heat must not be counted out, but we think the Scorchers get up here.