Favourites Perth Scorchers, depleted Sydney Sixers chase record fourth BBL crown

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Favourites Perth Scorchers, depleted Sydney Sixers chase record fourth BBL crown
© Getty Images Perth Scorchers’ depth and talent across the board have made them the team to beat © Getty Images

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At stake in the final is – obviously – the title, and also the mantle of being deemed the greatest club in BBL history, with the winner to claim a record fourth crown. Perth Scorchers were the competition’s trendsetters after making the final in five of the first six seasons, but two-time defending champions Sydney Sixers have been the dominant side recently, including beating their arch-rivals in last season’s decider. Remarkably, this will be the fifth final contested between them, with the 2-2 deadlock to be broken at the Marvel Stadium.

But these powerhouses enter the decider in vastly different shapes, with a full-strength Scorchers hot favourites against a depleted Sixers. Even though they have been shut out of Perth for the last seven weeks due to Western Australia’s hard border restrictions, Scorchers’ enviable depth and talent across the board have made them the team to beat all season.

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Scorchers have endured Covid-19 dramas and injuries at various points but eventually fielded their strongest team of the season in the qualifying final, where they demolished Sixers by 48 runs. However, a hamstring niggle to star Mitchell Marsh soured the win, although he has been confirmed to play in the final.

Scorchers have the wood over Sixers, having beaten them three times this month, and face a weakened opponent who limped into the final after emerging allrounder Hayden Kerr inspired a dramatic victory over Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday.

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A decimated Sixers will be without openers Josh Philippe and Jack Edwards, who have tested positive for Covid-19, while veteran spinner Steve O’Keefe and batter Jordan Silk suffered injuries during Strikers’ innings.

Sixers are optimistic that O’Keefe will recover from a calf injury in time for the final, but Silk, who was retired hurt before the final ball against Strikers due to a hamstring injury, is almost certain to miss. Batter Daniel Hughes could be a welcome addition, having not played since injuring an ankle during the warm-up ahead of the qualifying final.

So shorthanded were Sixers against Strikers that they had to call up assistant coach Jay Lenton at the last minute, as he took the gloves in his first competitive match in a month. They are set to request for a third time for an exemption for Steven Smith to play, and if successful, his presence would be a major tonic for Sixers’ quest for a historic hat-trick of titles.

Favourites Perth Scorchers, depleted Sydney Sixers chase record fourth BBL crown
© Getty Images Hayden Kerr’s emergence this season has been a success story © Getty Images

In the spotlight

Mitchell Marsh has arguably been the most in-form T20 batter in the world since his heroics at the T20 World Cup, but a hamstring injury has threatened to derail his golden run. Fortunately for the 30-year-old, who has a history of soft-tissue injuries, scans revealed no serious damage, as captain Ashton Turner on Thursday declared Marsh was a certain starter, although the allrounder might just be confined to batting.

There are plenty of unknowns in Sixers’ make up, but Hayden Kerr‘s major emergence this season has been a success story. The left-arm quick is the second-highest wicket-taker this BBL, while his explosive batting materialised memorably against Strikers at the top of the order. If he conjures another starring role in the final, Kerr could soon find himself vying for higher honours.

Team news

With Marsh available, Scorchers are set to field the same line-up that accounted for Sixers in the qualifying final.

Perth Scorchers (possible): 1 Josh Inglis (wk), 2 Kurtis Patterson, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Colin Munro, 5 Ashton Turner (capt), 6 Laurie Evans, 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Jhye Richardson, 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 11 Peter Hatzoglou

Henriques has had a lingering calf injury, but he revealed on Thursday that he would play. The Sixers’ captain also believed O’Keefe would find a place in the XI, but ruled Silk outr. There are, however, still considerable unknowns, not least whether they can risk Hughes.

Sydney Sixers (possible): 1 Hayden Kerr, 2 Justin Avendano, 3 Jake Carder, 4 Moises Henriques (capt), 5 Daniel Hughes, 6 Dan Christian, 7 Sean Abbott, 8 Ben Dwashuis, 9 Jay Lenton (wk), 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Steve O’Keefe

Pitch and conditions

The final will be at Scorchers’ favoured Marvel Stadium, where they are unbeaten from four matches this season. In the qualifying final, the pitch showed signs of wear and tear, with the venue having hosted several matches amid Victoria’s hub due to the BBL’s Covid-19 chaos. The pitch should be conducive to spin, but the ground’s short boundaries ensure plenty of runs is always in the offering. Heavy rain is forecast in Melbourne on Friday, meaning the final is expected to be played under Marvel Stadium’s closed roof.

Stats and trivia

Quotes

“They’ve been the best team for the last couple of years. We can’t wait for the opportunity for a little bit of redemption after what happened last year. We feel like we have taken lessons out of that. We have come back this year as a better team.”

Scorchers’ captain Ashton Turner on another chapter in the rivalry against Sixers

“It adds complexity when you’re carrying [injured] players in the field. Fielding is such a large component of T20 cricket. You want your key players playing, but you need to make sure they can contribute in the field.”

Moises Henriques on the risk of taking in too many injured players

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