There’s just two matches of the 2022/23 BBL season remaining, with the defending champion Scorchers in the box-seat and the Sixers needing to regroup as they taking on the sudden-death-defying Heat.
Homebody Heat turn road warriors
Brisbane Heat’s agonising two-run loss to Hobart Hurricanes in their last regular season game – bringing a four-match winning streak to an end – appeared to put paid to their title hopes.
It cost the resurgent Heat a home playoff at The Gabba, where they had pieced together an imposing 4-1 record.
Results on the road had proven hard to come by in BBL|12 for the Heat. But they have chalked up stirring, sudden-death wins in Sydney and Melbourne in the space of three days
Australian Test heroes Usman Khawaja (94 off 55) and Marnus Labsuchagne (73 off 48) clicked into T20 mode to lead the Heat to 5/203 in the Eliminator against the Thunder. Then the rains came at Sydney Showground – and the home side were stuck on 1/52 in the seventh over, eight runs short of the DLS par score.
Ironically, the underperforming David Warner (36* off 20) produced his best knock of the tournament in the Thunder’s curtailed innings.
Next in the nomadic Heat’s sights were the third-placed Renegades. Shaun Marsh (82* off 53) led the ’Gades to 5/162, with man-of-the-match Xavier Bartlett (3/18) stealing the show. An excellent start from skipper Khawaja (59 off 47) and Josh Brown (39 off 27) laid the platform for Brisbane’s seven-wicket victory with seven balls to spare.
Usman Khawaja brings up his 50 in style! #BBL12 pic.twitter.com/q4rP8qko4n
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 29, 2023
Now only Sydney Sixers stand in the way of the franchise’s first Big Bash final since the Heat won their only title in the 2012-13 summer.
But Australia’s tour of India has robbed the Heat of Khawaja, Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw, though the Sixers are similarly impact with the red-hot Steve Smith also reverting to Test duty.
Can Sixers rise to the Challenger?
The Sixers are warm $1.52 to put a stop to the Heat’s charge and set up a second straight BBL final against the Scorchers on Saturday night.
But aside from the Heat’s irresistible momentum (notwithstanding the absence of the threat of Usman, Marnus and Matt Renshaw), the Sixers also have to pick themselves up after a confidence-denting Qualifier defeat to the defending champs.
Strutting into the playoffs on a hot run of Steve Smith-inspired form, the Sixers crashed to a seven-wicket lost to the Scorchers in Perth last Saturday.
Smith’s lowest score since returning from the Test arena (18 off 16) had the Sixers in trouble at 3/42 in the ninth over, before captain Moises Henriques (58 off 43) and Jordan Silk (47* off 34) rescued the innings to a semi-respectable total of 8/151.
Sean Abbott put the Scorchers on the back foot with three wickets in the first four over, but the home side ultimately steadied to cruise into the final with nine balls to spare.
Sean Abbott's second over:
. . . W . W#BBL12 #BBLFinals pic.twitter.com/i1oZLHmp11
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 28, 2023
Smith has been a barometer for the Sixers in his abbreviated BBL|12 stint. But his departure to India puts the top-order onus on the likes of Josh Philippe, who has scored just 20 runs in his last four innings, and Kurtis Patterson, who has posted 26 runs in his last three visits to the crease.
With the Sixers wobbling, it’s not surprise to see the Scorchers installed as $1.45 favourites for the title – though that may come in a bit ahead of the final. Jason Behrendorff (2/17), captain Ashton Turner (84* off 47) and Cameron Bancroft (53* off 45) were outstanding in the Qualifier, while the likes of Josh Inglis and Andrew Tye are top-class performers who will be hell-bent on atoning for forgettable individual displays.
It’s the Scorchers’ title to lose at Optus Stadium.
Smith’s nod highlights selection debacle
Left out of Australia’s first-choice line-up as they surrendered their T20 title meekly at last year’s World Cup, Steve Smith needed just four innings in the voting period with the Sixers to snare a spot as an opener in the BBL|12 Team of the Tournament.
Smith – who also scooped the Allan Border Medal this week – scored 346 runs at 86.5, including two memorable centuries in back-to-back games.
Yes Smudge! 👏 https://t.co/GTdM1v7GyX
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 30, 2023
‘Smudge’ was joined at the top of the Team of the Tournament order by Adelaide Strikers’ breakout star Matt Short, who won the competition’s official Player of the Year gong and topped the BBL’s runscoring charts with 458 at 35.23.
Voted on by the BBL’s coaches, Smith and Short were among four players to attract the maximum eight votes, along with Scorchers power hitter Aaron Hardie and ever-reliable Sixers quick Sean Abbott.
BBL|12 Team of the Tournament
1. Matthew Short, Adelaide Strikers (eight votes)
2. Steve Smith, Sydney Sixers (eight)
3. Aaron Hardie, Perth Scorchers (eight)
4. Aaron Finch (c), Melbourne Renegades (six)
5. Josh Inglis (wk), Perth Scorchers (seven)
6. Tim David, Hobart Hurricanes (five)
7. Michael Neser, Brisbane Heat (five)
8. Sean Abbott, Sydney Sixers (eight)
9. Andrew Tye, Perth Scorchers (five)
10. Tom Rogers, Melbourne Renegades (six)
11. Paddy Dooley, Hobart Hurricanes (five)
12. Chris Lynn, Adelaide Strikers (three)
Squad goals 🤩
A huge congratulations to all players selected in the #BBL12 Team of the Tournament – as voted by the coaches! 👏
What do you think? Did the coaches get it right? Who was stiff to miss out? 💬 pic.twitter.com/2EFeBA9hWn
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 31, 2023
BBL Title Odds
Just three teams remain in the running for the BBL|12 crown – and the Scorchers’ price has been slashed after they secured a passage straight into the final with a win over the Sixers, who have eased out considerably. The Heat remain at juicy odds to complete a playoffs fairytale from fifth.
BBL 2022/23 Odds
|TEAM||WEEK 6 PRICE||WEEK 7 PRICE|
The Week Ahead
Thu 2nd Feb – Challenger: Sixers ($1.52) v Heat ($2.55)
Sat 4th Feb – Final: Scorchers v Sixers/Heat
It wasn't that long ago the Heat were languishing at the bottom of the #BBL12 table.
Now they're one of the last three teams remaining in the #BBLFinals! pic.twitter.com/tlGFZSBerF
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 30, 2023