Perth Scorchers 8 for 179 (Inglis 58, Richardson 29, Ellis 4-34) beat Hobart Hurricanes 8 for 157 (Short 43, Richardson 4-33) by 22 runs
Matthew Wade returned to BBL ranks and Tim Paine sat on the Hobart Hurricanes' bench, but it was the Perth Scorchers' South Africa tour aspirant Jhye Richardson who maintained his dominance of the tournament to effectively seal a finals place for his side.
The Scorchers' innings endured more than a few hiccups courtesy of some useful spin from the Hurricanes and another excellent display from Nathan Ellis, however the Scorchers' gloveman Josh Inglis put together an excellent middle order innings and was aided by some powerful late blows from none other than Richardson.
Hobart's chase was unsettled early on by Richardson, defeating Wade and Ben McDermott in his opening two overs, before he returned to also account for Pete Handscomb and then rounded off the contest by snaring Tim David. Jason Behrendorff also figured importantly by finding ways past D'Arcy Short and Dawid Malan.
Spin slows Scorchers' early hitting
A fine, sunny afternoon in neutral Melbourne was more reminiscent of Perth than Hobart, and an ideal seeing day for the Scorchers' top order after Ashton Turner won the toss. Jason Roy was quickly into gear, taking 10 from Riley Meredith's first over and then lining up Scott Boland to set the Victorian on the path to an unflattering 0 for 48 from his four overs.
Wade called on spin to shift momentum, and was well served by Will Jacks, Sandeep Lamichhane and Short after the skilful Ellis had found a way through Roy's defence. Jacks' first wicket of the tournament was a helpful drag-on from Colin Munro, before Liam Livingstone and Mitchell Marsh both miscalculated against Lamichhane's leggies. A promising 1 for 44 quickly became a sickly looking 4 for 66.
Ellis, Inglis duel for prominence
With Australia having both T20I and Test tours soon to commence, there will be extra places available due to those players unable to take part in both. This should mean close consideration of Ellis, who as a Power Play and death bowler is among the more canny in BBL ranks while also having enough pace when he chooses to use it. He is a study in contrasts with the quicker, taller but not always as game-aware Riley Meredith, who went to England with the white-ball squad last year. A return of 4 for 34 went a long way towards limiting the Scorchers at Docklands.
At the same time, Inglis' tidy wicketkeeping and improving batting has rewarded the faith of the Scorchers and Western Australia at both BBL and Shield levels. Having to endure as the Scorchers' innings staggered, Inglis was then able to accelerate intelligently while making the most of an array of different ways to find the fine leg boundary. Using both power and finesse, Inglis joined forced grandly with another international aspirant in Richardson, who hammered 29 from 14 balls in the closing overs to vault Perth well past 170.
Richardson knocks the top off Hurricanes
Following a Test series that achieved little for Wade other than to take his Test batting average below 30, he was understandably hopeful of a strong rebound in the BBL - an arena that had been something of his playground on his road back to the international realm in 2018-19. Instead he ran headlong into Richardson who is close to taking off for South Africa with the Test team in late February.
Wade defended a couple, mistimed a couple and cracked one fierce boundary through cover before being cramped into a leading edge and a tame return catch to Richardson, departing for just 6. Richardson followed up by coaxing another miscue out of Ben McDermott, and after a brief rest was brought back by Turner to find a way through Pete Handscomb, to that point looking very much like the Hurricanes' best chance of mounting a successful chase.
David defeated by line-ball full toss
Towards the end of the innings the Hurricanes found one small glimmer through the heavy hitting of David, a WA product well familiar with most of the Scorchers' bowlers. While lacking support, he had the Hurricanes needing an unlikely but not impossible 32 from nine balls while farming the strike. At this point Richardson, in his final over, erred on the full side with a delivery that looked very close to waist height as it whirred down towards the batsman.
David threw everything at it, slicing a catch to deep cover and forcing a long wait while the third umpire Sam Nogjaski deliberated. It was a line-ball call, but the umpire eventually decided that the delivery had not risen above waist height in David's regular stance, handing Richardson his fourth wicket for the match and 25th for the tournament. The Scorchers duly finished off the job to entrench their position in the BBL top five.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig