Bell and Brezy look to sign off in style in the final WACA showdown
As another Big Bash serving draws to its close, Will Macpherson looks ahead to Saturday’s showdon between the Scorchers and the Sixers
Bresnan has bowled cannily at the death – changing his pace. Can he and Ian Bell inspire the Scorchers in the final?
So 34 games and 1,012,458 fans later, we have two teams, and a final.Well, two teams and two finals, actually. On Saturday, Perth Scorchers women do battle with Sydney Sixers to become the second club to win the WBBL title, before the same teams meet in the men’s final. And so ends a remarkable season.
The enduring cricketing appeal of the BBL seems to come from the fact that anyone can beat anyone. Without egalitarian (Cricket Australia has a majority stake in all teams, in the BBL’s case) sports’ great levellers, like drafts or auctions, or even many trades (BBL has seen two ever, and they are not allowed during the season), the competition somehow stays close. In the group stages, eight teams played eight games each. All eight lost at least three, but won at least three, too. On the ladder, four points separated top and bottom. Beyond big crowds, little seemed certain.
One of the finalists, Sixers, perfectly illustrates this. They have been sublime, and ridiculous, and produced both in one semi-final as they required a super over to bail them out after a collapse of 5-29 against Brendon McCullum’s Brisbane Heat. Ten days earlier, they had managed just 99 from their 20 overs, losing by eight wickets to Sydney Thunder, who finished bottom.Their three defeats in the group stages came to the three bottom sides.
But they are a mighty strong side, and when they win, they tend to win well. They have the competition’s best bowler, Sean Abbott, and Moises Henriques, a shrewd captain and smart batsman, especially in chases. Dan Hughes is the most improved batsman in the competition, and Nathan Lyon and Jackson Bird have returned from Test duty to bolster the bowling.
Because Sixers only seem to lose to teams below them in the ladder, they have already beaten Scorchers, who finished top. But Scorchers have produced their tried and tested formula – squeeze in the field, then bat steady – to perfection in the last two games, thrashing Hobart Hurricanes to finish top, then routing Melbourne Stars (with Mitchell Johnson bowling beautifully) to book a home final.
The game will be the last in the BBL at the Waca, as Scorchers move to the new Perth Stadium. The game sold out in four hours (of course it did). A belter awaits.
BIG BASH! Year in Review... Best batsman: Chris Lynn
Lynn only played five games, but still has seven more sixes (26) than any other player, and hit a six every seven balls. He made 84 not out, 85 not out and, best of all, 98 not out in a win against Scorchers, the best bowling line-up, at the Waca, the toughest venue.
Best bowler: Sean Abbott
Last year, Abbott was ploughed for 51 in 16 balls as Travis Head stole the New Year’s Eve show at Adelaide Oval. This time, Abbott took a five-fer on NYE and leads the wicket-taking charts with 20. To boot, he bowled a successful super over, has finished two chases and taken seven catches.
Lynn’s 98 was special, but it’s hard to argue with Hobart Hurricanes’ Ben McDermott’s remarkable knock of 114 off 52 to chase down 223 against Renegades. In just his second BBL game and replacing the dropped Kumar Sangakkara, chasing the highest score ever made in the competition.
Best bowling performance
Ah, Mitchell. Nice to see you again. Johnson had enjoyed a stellar if unspectacular tournament until the semi-final when he dismissed Rob Quiney, Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen in a remarkable four-over spell that served up two maidens and just three runs, all but guaranteeing Scorchers a spot in the final.
Best all-rounder: Aaron Finch
Eh? Finch did everything for Renegades. He impressed in his main roles, as captain and opening bat, with four of his team’s six fifties, and more than 120 more runs than
any of his team-mates. But Finch was not done there. When his team needed someone to defend nine from the final over, Finch stepped up (he failed, but only thanks to a last ball six). Twice, keeper Peter Nevill went down injured, and twice Finch donned the gloves. Is there anything he cannot do?
Sam Billings did well for Sixers, Stuart Broad put in some fine performances for Hurricanes, and KP is still pretty good, too. But the best Englishmen have been out in the west. Ian Bell has been solid for Scorchers but it’s the bowling all-rounders who have done best. David Willey got seven wickets in five games (with an economy under 6.5), before Tim Bresnan picked up exactly where he left off. Bresnan has bowled cannily at the death, changing his pace and picking up six wickets in four games so far. Can he and Bell inspire Scorchers in the final?
After a barnstorming year last year, there were questions about how much scope there was for improvement. But even though finals have taken place at smaller stadiums, crowds are still up (averaging over 30,000), and so are TV audiences. Four teams sold out every game, there have been 20 sell-outs overall.
Australia’s ODIs clash with the competition, meaning the best players get snapped up by the national team. The two entities are on a collision course. Secondly, when gimmicks get in the way of the game, such as the first ball of the semi-final at the Gabba being bowled in a smoke-filled stadium due to fireworks being set off. The BBL needs to grow up fast – it’s better than this.
Taking aim: The Scorchers’ Tim Bresnan fields off his own bowling and attempts to run out Kevin Pietersen
Plenty to shout about: David Willey was in top form with the ball before he left to join England