Arafat helps defend lowest BBL total
Perth Scorchers 7 for 117 (Marsh 31) beat Melbourne Renegades 8 for 111 (Arafat 3-15) by 6 runs
Hardly a soul inside "the Furnace", aka the WACA, would have thought the Scorchers could have pulled this match out of the fire at the halfway point. Let alone when the Renegades raced to 38 without loss after four overs of their chase.
Yet somehow, on the back of scoreboard pressure, and some skilful bowling from Scorchers' experienced T20 exponents, the home side successfully defended the lowest total in the BBL's short history.
The Scorchers can thank their recruiting team for signing Pakistan bowler, Yasir Arafat. He arrived in Australia just three days ago and bowled his new team to victory on Boxing Day with an extraordinary spell.
An unknown commodity to most of the Scorchers fans, Arafat was a mystery to the Renegades batsmen, who knew very little about his cleverly disguised slower ball, and he found some swing from the helpful Fremantle doctor.
Aaron Finch was completely fooled by Arafat's slower ball in the fifth over to halt the Renegades early progression. Alex Doolan, who struck four crisp boundaries in a classy 21, dragged a half-volley from Jason Behrendorff onto his stumps in the next over, and suddenly the Scorchers had a glimmer of hope.
Mitchell Marsh then showed his tremendous all-round ability by bagging two wickets in the 10th over. Ben Rohrer parried a leading edge to point and Jos Buttler nicked a wide outswinger to leave the Renegades needing a run-a-ball from the last ten overs to win.
But they imploded from there. Tom Cooper, Peter Nevill and William Sheridan all skied catches off slower balls from both Arafat and Alfonso Thomas. Nathan Rimmington was run out in a calamitous mix-up, and the visitors fell six runs shy of their target.
Earlier, the Scorchers looked to have butchered the game having started brightly with the bat after winning the toss. Simon Katich and Shaun Marsh took 45 from the first six overs, and looked set to build a commanding total. But the Renegades were allowed to deliver the next 83 balls without conceding a boundary.
Katich became Cooper's first-ever BBL wicket, and just his ninth in T20 cricket, when he nicked an innocuous off-break. Rimmington and Muttiah Muralitharan then bowled eight overs between them, collecting three wickets for just 27 runs.
The crowd was pensive when the total limped to 7 for 117 at the change of innings. Incredibly, though, it proved just enough.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth