Bancroft, Agar fifties guide Scorchers to easy win
Perth Scorchers 5 for 175 (Bancroft 72, Agar 68, Russell 2-31) beat Sydney Thunder 9 for 145 (Russell 42, Tye 3-22, Behrendorff 3-26) by 30 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Despite their dominance of the BBL over the years, Perth Scorchers have repeatedly been written off. After they slumped to 2 for 1 in the second over to a formidable Sydney Thunder attack, the Scorchers could probably hear the scepticism reverberating. However, once again, the defending champion's famed resilience reared and another finals appearance looks assured after a 30-run victory over the Thunder at Spotless Stadium in Sydney.
Notching their fourth win of the BBL, the Scorchers pulled a game clear of the Thunder after both teams were deadlocked at second on the ladder.
Largely due to contrasting, but highly effective, half centuries from precocious youngsters Cameron Bancroft and Ashton Agar, the Scorchers recovered from the perilous early position to compile 5 for 175 after being sent in to bat.
It was a total the highly disciplined Scorchers attack always looked likely to defend. On television commentary, Mark Waugh rated Thunder paceman Andre Russell the "best fast bowler in the competition". Waugh may have a change of heart after Scorchers spearhead Jason Behrendorff (3 for 26 off 4 overs) again produced a scintillating display claiming the early wickets of Aiden Blizzard and the out-of-form Jacques Kallis to leave the Thunder reeling at 2 for 17 after three overs.
Shane Watson, the Thunder's acting captain in place of an injured Mike Hussey, looked in sparkling form counterattacking young Scorchers paceman Joel Paris, who is set to make his ODI debut against India next week.
But Watson fell just when he looked threatening, playing on for 18 to leave the Thunder 3 for 49 in the ninth over. The Thunder's chase looked forlorn until the powerful Russell produced an extraordinary display of brutish batting. In the ultimate purple patch, Russell smashed five sixes in eight deliveries between overs 12 and 14.
The most noteworthy of the bunch was a slog off Behrendorff that astonishingly went 116 metres, just one metre short of Dan Christian's tournament record.
But Behrendorff showed his form, snaring the crucial scalp of Russell, assisted by a clutch catch from Paris after the ball swirled high in the air. Russell compiled a highly entertaining 20-ball 42 but his dismissal effectively ended the Thunder's hopes, and they eventually finished well short of the target at 9 for 145.
A comprehensive victory looked unlikely earlier in the day when the Scorchers struggled mightily with the bat at the beginning of their innings. Much of the Scorchers' batting had revolved around their opening partnership of Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger, the Scorchers captain, who was out in the first over for a duck, followed quickly by the dismissal of Marcus Harris.
Marsh looked in fine touch compiling 28 with ease, but his dismissal halted the Scorchers' comeback and left them delicately poised at 3 for 64 in the 11th over. The Scorchers perceived weakness was their inexperienced middle-order, which had hardly batted throughout the tournament due to Klinger and Marsh's domination.
Making a mockery of that perception, Bancroft and Agar combined for Scorchers' fourth-wicket record partnership of 105 off just 51 balls. Bancroft, a technically correct batsman, played orthodox yet powerfully, particularly through the off side. Smartly, he rotated the strike early in a determined rebuild attempt, and then impressively muscled numerous shots down the ground.
In a notable contrast to his teammate, Agar looks ungainly at times with minimal footwork and a wild swing of the bat. But at the core of his burgeoning batting is his attentiveness; Agar watches the ball closely and when in rhythm, morphs into a stylish and powerful batsman. His effervescence was infectious, as the pair scurried between the wickets, rattling the suddenly ragged Thunder. Agar's cavalier approach netted 68 off 34 balls in his first BBL half-century, while Bancroft scored a 53-ball 72.
The impressive performances of their youngsters will well please the Scorchers, who will be without the services of Marsh for the remainder of the BBL.