Despite scorching Finch, Bancroft’s career-best secures the Scorchers a home final
After a thrilling 10-run victory over the Melbourne Renegades at Optus Stadium, Cameron Bancroft hit a career-high score of 95 not out, and Perth Scorchers held off an Aaron Finch onslaught to clinch the top spot in the BBL standings.
When the Scorchers were put into the batting order, Finch, who was participating in his 100th BBL game, was left to regret it as Bancroft profited from the quick David Moody’s removal from the attack in the second over for bowling two risky waist-height deliveries.
As the fourth-place Renegades (6-7) continued to compete for a playoff spot, late fireworks from Finch nearly brought in the enormous total as they chased 213, but it wasn’t quite enough.
On Saturday, the Scorchers will play host to the Sydney Sixers in a qualifying final. The victor advances to a home final on February 4.
Teams batting first have had a difficult time at Optus Stadium this season because of the occasionally sluggish surface. The hardened surface flowed runs in the sunny conditions, and Stephen Eskinazi’s boundary off the opening ball of the innings previewed what was to come. Perth temperatures have been rising in recent days.
Eskinazi established himself as the early leader and capitalized on a mediocre Renegades attack with creative hitting, including numerous scoops to the boundary, to score 37 runs off of his first 13 balls.
Before greeting his teammate from the Western Australia, Corey Rocchiccioli, with two sixes off the spinner’s first three deliveries, Bancroft had primarily watched the action.
Eskinazi struck another boundary immediately after to achieve his half-century off only 26 deliveries as the openers scored 62 runs during the powerplay. Bancroft persisted in stealing from a misguided Renegades attack even though he knew he couldn’t continue.
Early in the season, Bancroft was largely ignored since the Scorchers, possibly inadvertently, preferred English recruit Adam Lyth, who was never able to get going.
The bolder Bancroft, who is maybe better known as a calmer longer-format player, has been combative this season typified by cavalier batting, as highlighted by his furious 50-ball effort.
For Moody, the talented Western Australian Tom Moody’s nephew, it was a horrifying return home. Moody shared the new ball in the second over, but his brief performance, which he would rather forget, only lasted one legal delivery.
When Moody bowled a reckless full toss at 144 kph that impacted Bancroft’s rib cage and required medical treatment, calamity struck. Moody had started out reasonably well with a dot delivery.
After a wide from his subsequent delivery, a flustered Moody threw another full toss, which Eskinazi scooped for a boundary. After giving up eight runs on one legal delivery and finishing with an ugly economy rate of 48, Moody was asked to leave the attack because it was assessed to be beyond waist height.
A severely reduced Renegades offensive was under significant pressure without spearhead Kane Richardson, and their best-laid plans fell through without Moody.
Their sole saving grace was a spectacular catch by Will Sutherland, who showed off his athleticism by pulling off a one-handed grab to dismiss Nick Hobson after returning from mid-off.
Before Finch turned back the clock with three consecutive sixes as seamer Andrew Tye gave away 31 runs in the 18th over, Renegades were in deep trouble, requiring 68 off the final three overs.
Renegades were left requiring 37 runs off the final two overs, however they were eventually unsuccessful. Finch, on the other hand, proved he still had it in him with 76 off 35 balls, as did Shaun Marsh, who also scored 50 runs.
In his first game after suffering a hamstring injury on January 3 against Melbourne Stars, WA veteran Marsh played at home.
With four of his typical magnificent boundaries off his first seven deliveries, he showed no signs of rust at the top of the order, and Marsh played fluidly before being dismissed for 54 in the eleventh over.
Prior to the playoffs, the Scorchers were concerned about injuries. Quick Matt Kelly had to be replaced in the 15th over of the game due to concussion regulations after suffering an injury scare.
Hobson’s throw to the non-end strikers deflected off Finch’s bat, causing Kelly to take a blow to the face in a frightening event. Kelly was down on the ground for several seconds as the 32,000 spectators watched in quiet silence.
After being knocked to the ground and covered in blood, Kelly eventually rose to his feet and cautiously stood up. Leg Spinner Peter Haztoglou, who had been benched along with frontline spinner Ashton Agar for the match, took Kelly’s place.
With star fast Jhye Richardson expected to make his hamstring injury comeback against the Sixers, the Scorchers do have enviable speed depth if Kelly is ruled out.