Scorchers prevail in dramatic, rain-hit match
Perth Scorchers 2 for 139 in 13 overs (Marsh 68) beat Melbourne Stars 2 for 183 in 18 overs (White 88, Hodge 70*)
You need more than the Duckworth/Lewis method to work out how the Perth Scorchers won this extraordinary semi-final against Melbourne Stars, and qualified for the Champions League again. Rain reduced the contest from a 20-over affair to an 18-over match at the end of the Stars' magnificent batting display. Then more rain initially reduced it to a 17-over chase, before a 13-over pursuit of 139 was finally begun.
You could talk about the ten runs needed from James Faulkner's final over, and Jackson Bird's drop of Michael Hussey from the first ball of the over. But the match, the BBL final, and the Champions League berth all hinged on what appeared to be the last ball of the match.
Adam Voges took strike, needing three runs to win, and two to force a one-over eliminator. Faulkner, who was controversially made the stand-in captain for the Stars with both Shane Warne and Cameron White on sanctions for slow over-rates earlier in the tournament, stood at the top of his mark with his actual captain, Warne, and the former acting captain, White, trying to set a field to keep the scoring to two or less.
The trio parted ways, all pointing every which way. Faulkner delivered a brilliant wide yorker that Voges missed and despite Hussey running through for a bye the Stars thought they had won the match, until they saw standing umpire Mick Martell's right arm outstretched to signal a no-ball.
The Stars' three captains had failed to notice they only had three men inside the circle. To rub salt into the wound Faulkner also over-stepped the frontline. Either way the Stars looked at it, the ball needed to be re-bowled and the Scorchers needed just one to win.
Hussey, of course, struck the winning runs over mid-on, and the Scorchers booked a home final for Saturday night at the WACA.
The Scorchers can thank Shaun Marsh for getting them there. Chasing 139 to win, Marsh produced another astonishing hand. His innings of 68 from 40 balls was the difference in the end. The Scorchers were 1 for 38 after five overs, having lost Herschelle Gibbs to a hamstring strain and Nathan Coulter-Nile to a superb running catch from Brad Hodge.
Marsh then targeted debutant Alex Keath, who was called upon for his first over by one of his captains. The left-hander assaulted the youngster, taking 27 from the over. Both a full toss and a half volley landed in the long-on bleachers. Then two elegant cover drives found the cover rope in different ways, one on the bounce, the next along the carpet. The fifth ball went for six again, the sixth Marsh took a single to retain the strike in a commanding display of batting.
Off the first ball of the seventh over, Marsh slashed Bird to third man to bring up his fifth half-century of the tournament, and the third in a row. He and Voges continued to find the rope with ease before Marsh holed out with 38 runs still needed.
But it only brought Hussey to the crease to hook his second ball for six. His 18 not out from 12 balls was vintage Hussey, but credit must really go to Voges who finished with an unbeaten 36 from 21 deliveries to help the Scorchers to the most remarkable of victories. Given the wet conditions and the shortened match, Warne did not bowl for the first time in the BBL.
It was a result that never seemed likely after the Stars' phenomenal batting display. Simon Katich asked the Stars to bat with one eye on the looming rain clouds. Cameron White was promoted to open and nearly doubled his tournament run tally in 53 balls of brutal hitting. White had managed just 90 runs in seven innings this tournament. His 88 here looked a match-winning effort. After a cautious start the Stars were 1 for 69 through the first ten overs. But then White and Hodge cut loose. They hit 10 sixes between them, each as large as the next. No bowler was spared with the exception of Coulter-Nile who conceded only a run a ball while his colleagues were clubbed to all corners of a packed WACA ground.
A rain delay brought about White's downfall as he picked out long-off first ball after the resumption. It did not stop Hodge though. His unbeaten 70 from 43 deliveries helped the Stars to an imposing total of 2 for 183, which would have certainly been in excess of 200 had they been allowed to bat the 20 overs.
Hodge received a life on 40 when the makeshift wicketkeeper Hussey missed a stumping chance. But the gamble of gloving Hussey would pay dividends in the end for the Scorchers. Perth will host the BBL final for the second successive year, and despite the disgrace and disappointment of the 2012 Champions League, they will be there again in 2013.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth