Strikers hold nerve to set up title bout at home
Adelaide Strikers 5 for 178 (Head 85*, Weatherald 57) beat Melbourne Renegades 4 for 177 (Harris 45, Cooper 36*, Head 1-27) by one run
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Confirmation of the BBL final's host hung on one delivery. A swing and a miss from Kieron Pollard made Ben Laughlin a hero and delivered Adelaide Strikers their first BBL final berth, while the Melbourne Renegades were denied a chance at a title. Strikers will host Hobart Hurricanes on Sunday at Adelaide Oval, with both sides chasing their first BBL trophy.
The game was on a knife's edge all through the Renegades run chase. Laughlin was asked to keep the Renegades to 12 runs or less in the final over. He gave up 10 off the first five balls including a boundary from Pollard. With three to win off the final delivery Pollard missed a length ball in the slot and a bye wasn't enough.
Strikers' tried and tested set-and-defend formula worked again. Travis Head cast aside his disappointment of being dropped from Australia's T20 International side to play a match-winning hand. His unbeaten 85 was pivotal to the Strikers' imposing total. Jake Weatherald provided superb support.
Renegades had looked on track the whole way after a brisk start from Marcus Harris and Tim Ludeman. Tom Cooper and Kieron Pollard appeared set to finish the job but they couldn't.
The loss of Alex Carey at the top of the order seemed an impossible hole to fill. Jono Dean couldn't provide the volume of runs that Carey had but he could provide something different. Carey had been a slow starter in the Powerplay and preferred to accelerate once set.
Renegades had hoped to sneak in an over of Cooper's offspin early to get the Strikers behind the eight-ball. Dean did not allow it. He smashed 13 from the first over and then hit Chris Tremain over the rope off the seventh ball of the innings. He holed out off the eighth. But the rapid start gave Weatherald and Head the chance to settle in. Weatherald was able to do as Carey had done. He was striking at less than run-a-ball, before launching Cooper in the 10th over. He scored 33 runs off his next 16 balls to take the pressure off Head. Their partnership of 104 looked set to blow the game apart.
Holland a specialist fielder
Jon Holland took the catch to remove Weatherald. It was his only contribution for the night. He wasn't used with the ball despite being selected as Renegades' only specialist spinner, presumably because he wasn't the right match-up for the two left-handers that batted deep into the innings. The rate slowed briefly as Colin Ingram and Jonathan Wells came and went. Ingram fell to a stunning one-hander from Tim Ludeman. But Head found a way to accelerate despite losing partners. He only hit one four and one six in the last five overs but ran eight twos to get the total up to 178.
Strikers have buried opponents in the Powerplay when defending totals. But without Billy Stanlake, Renegades bolted out of the blocks in spite of making some bizarre decisions themselves. The top three of Marcus Harris, Matthew Short and Tom Cooper from the last few fixtures was abandoned. Cameron White, who batted at No. 3 with great success before leaving for international duty, opened with Harris and Ludeman batted one-down for the first time in the tournament, while Short was not selected. White holed out early. But Harris continued his fine form and Ludeman cut loose. The key moment came when Rashid Khan was forced to bowl an over in the Powerplay and Renegades took 12 runs from it. The Renegades Powerplay of 1 for 64 was their best in the tournament, and the Strikers' worst.
Nervous Lehmann, nerveless Laughlin
Head and Rashid got their own back, removing Harris and Ludeman off consecutive overs. But Renegades needed just 87 runs from the last 60 balls with seven wickets in hand. Cooper and Dwayne Bravo reduced that to 52 from 36 with some cool and calculated batting. The game then appeared to slip through the Strikers' fingers.
Head turned boldly to the part-time legspin of Ingram. He forced a mistake from Bravo, who skied one to long-on, but Lehmann spilled the relatively simple chance running in. Bravo launched the next ball for six over cover. Laughlin removed Bravo and conceded just five runs in the 16th over. Head gambled with Ingram again to Pollard. Again, he forced a skied ball to long-on. Lehmann ran in glancing at midwicket, hoping someone would call him out of the catch. No call came. When he looked back up he realised he had over-run and it fell untouched.
The next ball didn't go for six, but Pollard launched Rashid over the longest boundary next over. The Renegades needed 20 runs from 12 balls with Pollard and Cooper set. But where Head had run twos on mis-hits during his batting innings, Pollard strolled ones. Michael Neser gave up just seven runs in the 19th over to give Laughlin a chance. Despite one incredible strike down the ground and some luck on the final ball, Laughlin held his nerve to get his side home.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth