The 2022/23 BBL season ended with a result that was widely predicted from the outset. But the Big Bash’s 12th edition is destined to be remembered as much for Brisbane Heat’s remarkable revival as it is Perth Scorchers’ back-to-back triumph. 

Scorching success

Already the Big Bash League’s winningest franchise heading into BBL|12, Perth Scorchers further stamped their dominance with their fifth titles (Sydney Sixers are on the honours board with three) and their second in a row.

It was a deserved triumph – the Scorchers topped the table with an 11-3 record and lifted the trophy on the back of a five-match winning streak after two impressive home finals wins. Their success was underpinned by a collective effort by a host of underrated contributors, rather than T20 superstars.

But they were pushed all the way by unlikely finalists Brisbane Heat in Saturday’s decider – one of the best of the Big Bash genre.

The Heat batted first at Optus Stadium and while their innings never reached any great heights, fast-starting Josh Brown (25 off 12), Sam Heazlett (34 off 30), Nathan McSweeney (41 off 37), Sam Hain (21* off 16) and blockbusting Max Bryant (31 off 14) all contributed to guide the underdogs to 7/175.

When Stephen Eskinazi (who was run out in embarrassing circumstances) and BBL Team of the Year selections Cameron Bancroft and Aaron Hardie were all back in the changing rooms with 54 runs on the board at the end of the eighth over, the BBL final was evenly poised.

But skipper Ashton Turner (53 off 32) and Josh Inglis (26 off 22) steadied the ship with an 80-run stand…before the experienced pair departed in the space of three balls in the 17th over with 39 still needed.

Unheralded duo Nick Hobson (18* off 7) and Cooper Connolly (25* off 11) held their nerve, though, to steer the Scorchers home with four balls to spare.

Connolly enters BBL folklore

Nineteen-year-old Cooper Connolly was the talk of the cricketing world after his spectacular, pivotal cameo in the BBL final.

In just his fourth Big Bash match, the Scorchers No.7 tyro came in at a nerve-shredding juncture – 38 required from 18 balls. But he bookended the 18th over with a pair of sixes and added a four and a two in between to put the wobbling hosts back in the box-seat.

Connolly had only faced 11 deliveries in BBL cricket before the final but finished unbeaten on 25 after an unforgettable 11-ball onslaught.

“It’s a dream come true when the crowd’s behind you. Had full confidence in myself. I felt me and Hobbo (Nick Hobson), he hits a big ball, had all faith in us. He was pretty good, told me to keep a strong base. It’s about celebrating with the boys tonight…enjoy the moment,” the BBL’s newest cult hero said post-match.

Heat’s fairytale falls just short

Brisbane lost few admirers after a gallant effort in the final as rank outsiders – the culmination of a charge that seemed near-impossible a few short weeks earlier.

The Heat were longshots in title betting after winning just two of their first nine matches, before piecing together a season-saving four-game winning streak that ultimately saw them scrape into fifth with the likes of Josh Brown rising from obscurity to become a Big Bash star.

The unfancied outfit then began one of the great BBL tightrope walks through the playoffs, leaving the Thunder and Renegades in their sudden-death wake. Those victories were inspired by Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne – and the Test guns’ mid-playoffs departure to India was expected to snuff out the Heat’s revival.

But they failed to read the script again in the Challenger, with the $2.50 underdogs carving out a four-wicket win over the Sixers at the SCG. Michael Neser starred with ball (2/28) and bat (48* off 32) in the boilover.

Unfortunately, loose bowling brought them undone in the latter stages of Saturday’s thrilling decider. James Bazley was carted for 18 runs by Connolly to make the equation a lot more palatable for the Scorchers, while the match ended with Neser smashed for a six and a four by Hobson on consecutive balls.

But nothing can take away from the Heat’s valiant fight-back in BBL|12, which could be a much-needed turning point for a battling franchise that had played in just one finals match since taking out the inaugural Big Bash League title in 2012/13.

Sixers lament late slump

It was all going so well for the Sixers.

The men in magenta went unbeaten in their last seven regular-season matches – including a tight win over the Scorchers – to finish seven points clear in second place. Steve Smith had added a exhilarating new dimension to the batting line-up and a repeat final against the Scorchers appeared a mere formality.

But a convincing Qualifier loss in Perth and then Smith’s exit to India with the Test team took the wind right out of the Sixers’ sails.

One of the shortest favourites you will ever see in the BBL, the $1.50 Sixers could only scrape together 9/116 against the Heat in the Challenger. The unfashionable Heat ran down the meagre target with 10 balls to spare and that was all she wrote for a Sixers side that didn’t get enough from the likes of Josh Philippe, Daniel Hughes, Moises Henriques and Jordan Silk when it mattered.

Drums beat for re-Turner

The last of Ashton Turner’s 18 Twenty20 Internationals for Australia came back in August 2021. He hadn’t exactly set the world on fire at the level, while he managed one half-century in seven ODI innings.

But since his stint in the international arena ended, Turner has captained Perth Scorchers to back-to-back BBL titles – and contributed massively in key moments.

In the BBL|11 final, Turner (54 off 35) and Laurie Evans rescued the Scorchers from a disastrous 4/25 to an eventual total of 6/171. The Scorchers ultimately beat the Sixers by 79 runs – but it would have been a different story if not for the skipper’s heroics.

Turner produced a strikingly similar knock on Saturday night to get the Scorchers back on track and out of a tenuous spot, picking up man-of-the-match honours in the process.

The 30-year-old finished the season with 381 runs at 42.33, including an equal-competition-high four half centuries.

With Aaron Finch announcing his retirement from T20I cricket this week, calls are growing for Turner to not only be recalled to the Australian side, but to have the (c) next to his name if he returns.