Bolstered by his experience of Perth Stadium's first official cricket fixture between Australia and England on Sunday, Tim Paine is hoping that Perth Scorchers will be burdened by the expectations of a sell-out crowd of more than 50,000 spectators when the Big Bash League's most vaunted team takes on Hobart Hurricanes in the first semi-final.
Paine was the last man out for Australia as the hosts were overwhelmed by Tom Curran's late burst of reverse swing, and said the Hurricanes were more than happy to enter the knockout match with few expectations of success beyond their own dressing room, having scraped into the finals and then lost D'Arcy Short to Australian Twenty20 duty. They also dropped the out-of-sorts Tymal Mills from their squad for the semi-final, replacing him with the youthful paceman Riley Meredith.
The Scorchers, meanwhile, have been strengthened by the returns of Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, the latter another participant in Sunday's ODI, and are heavily favoured to brush Hobart aside and advance to a home tournament final for the fifth time in seven editions of the competition - they also qualified for a home final in 2015 but it was held in neutral Canberra due to the looming 50-over World Cup. Paine said that the Hurricanes' coach Adam Griffith, formerly Justin Langer's assistant for the Scorchers and Western Australia, was looking to build a similarly tight unit across state and BBL competitions in a one-team town.
"We totally expect it, we've been the underdogs in many games this year and come out on top, so it's nice to come over here and fly under the radar a bit," Paine said. "Perth are an exceptional side, you've got to respect what they've done in the last five or six years, but we certainly come here with no fear. Hopefully the expectation, new stadium and bigger crowd weighs on the Scorchers. Throughout the whole tournament you see if any team plays well they can beat anyone, so I know the two teams had a really close game at the WACA not too long ago so I think they're both pretty even.
"I know that with Adam Griffith coming from Perth and Western Australia it's something the Hurricanes are certainly looking to emulate, what the Perth Scorchers have got. There's no doubt that they've had some huge success, you'd be foolish not to look at what they're doing and trying to use that as an advantage. We've got the opportunity to have something fairly similar so I'm sure we'll be looking at every possibility over the next couple of years.
"Clearly he's got some insights into the way they play as a team and the strengths and weaknesses of individual players, so having him on board this year that hopefully can be really telling in the next 24 hours."
Paine said the stadium's pitch and fast outfield offered the possibility for plenty of runs to be scored, particularly with its football-oriented dimensions offering short straight boundaries to power hitters. "I didn't think it was too dissimilar to what we've seen at the WACA the last couple of years," Paine said, adding that he was likely to open in Short's stead.
"They've done a fantastic job to get it up and keep the characteristics of the WACA, with a bit of pace and bounce, it was nice. If you look at the squads I think both sides might go with a fair bit of pace, which is normally the case in Perth, small straight boundaries as well so it's a difficult place to bowl spin in T20 cricket when you don't get a lot of turn. So not sure what both sides will go with but there's a fair chance you'll see a fair bit of pace."
Mitchell Marsh, meanwhile, said while the Scorchers had turned over more than 20 players this season, they benefited greatly from keeping a consistent squad core together over much of the past seven years, principally a generation that has also included Ashton Agar, Ashton Turner, Cameron Bancroft and Hilton Cartwright. "I think that's something we pride ourselves on, wanting to play for the Perth Scorchers and sticking around," Marsh said. "We've had a core group of us, mainly the likes of Ashton Agar, Ashton Turner, Cam Bancroft, Hilton Cartwright, become senior players in this outfit and we've all been here since the start of the Big Bash.
"I think that's been a really pleasing thing for us and it'll be really nice to show that progression with hopefully a win tomorrow and another win on Sunday. We've started to create our own history here as the Perth Scorchers, and right now our record is unrivalled in the Big Bash, and hopefully it can stay that way for a long time."