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Turner, Agar take Scorchers past Sixers to extend lead at the top

Turner smashed 69 from 41 balls as Scorchers overhauled Sixers' modest 4 for 151 with one over to spare

Ashton Turner scored a 41-ball 69, Sydney Sixers vs Perth Scorchers, BBL 2021-22, Coffs Harbour, January 9, 2022

Ashton Turner scored a 41-ball 69  •  Getty Images

Perth Scorchers 5 for 152 (Turner 69, Hardie 35, Dwarshuis 2-34) beat Sydney Sixers 4 for 151 (Christian 35 not out, Philippe 32, Agar 2-23) by five wickets
Ashton Turner posted his first half-century of the BBL season as Perth Scorchers continued their winning ways over rival Sydney Sixers with a five-wicket victory in Coffs Harbour.
In a battle of last year's grand finalists, Turner smashed 69 from 41 balls as Scorchers overhauled Sixers' modest 4 for 151 with one over to spare to stretch their lead on top of the ladder. They also continued their stranglehold over Sixers having prevailed by 10 runs at Gold Coast just five days ago.
Both teams were without a host of stars with Scorchers weakened by the absence of Colin Munro, the second highest run scorer in the BBL, after he tested positive to Covid-19 while spearhead Jason Behrendorff missed due to being a close contact.
Captain Moises Henriques, star quick Sean Abbott and frontline spinner Steve O'Keefe were sidelined for Sixers.
Turner leads from the front
With Munro sidelined, Scorchers' depth was tested with Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis still part of Australia's Ashes squad. They crashed to 3 for 44 in the chase leaving the pressure on skipper Turner, who has had a lean season with a highest score of just 27.
It took just 16 balls for him to surpass that total as Turner found a willing partner in youngster Aaron Hardie, who smartly nudged the ball around to get Scorchers back on top. Turner, who became the second highest run scorer in Scorchers history, was in vintage form marked by several well executed ramp shots.
He blunted spinner Shadab Khan with blistering sweep shots, including a vicious six in the 15th over to shut the door on Sixers. Hardie, who turned 23 two days ago, continued to take his opportunities with an impressive 35 having made a career best 45 against Sixers last week. Turner and Hardie fell near the end but there were no late wobbles with replacement player Chris Sabburg sealing victory in his first BBL game in eight years.
Shadab fails to fire
Without stars Abbott and O'Keefe, Sixers faced a challenge to defend a middling total but wickets on consecutive deliveries from Ben Dwarshius in the third over had them well on top.
But Shadab struggled against Turner and finished with 1 for 36 from 4 overs despite the favourable spin conditions and debutant offspinner Todd Murphy bowled just two overs. Sixers reverted to pace in the backend but they couldn't force Scorchers into late mistakes. Sixers will rue missing several chances against Turner in a sloppy performance in the field.
The importance of Abbott and O'Keefe to their attack was magnified in this sub-par effort.
Agar menaces with sharp turn
Scorchers restricted Sixers batters mostly due to left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, who relished the conditions. He menacingly gave the ball flight and lured Josh Philippe into a tame dismissal then clean bowled Justion Avendano with a gem of a delivery.
His excellent performance continued when he claimed a sharp catch at backward point to dismiss Daniel Hughes in the power surge, leaving Sixers wobbling.
Scorchers' stranglehold loosened with tardy bowling at the death from Matt Kelly and Andrew Tye as once again they had no answer for Dan Christian. It was a rare off performance from Scorchers' pace bowlers who managed just one wicket and they missed Tymal Mills, who starred for them during his seven-match stint before joining England's T20 squad to the Caribbean.
Christian rescues Sixers again
Avendano was a replacement player for Covid-19 hit Melbourne Stars on January 3 and six days later he filled a similar role for a shorthanded Sixers becoming the first player to be part of two clubs in a single BBL season.
He looked the goods at the top with crisp drives to complement Philippe, who made just 36 runs from four innings since a blistering start to the season.
Rediscovering his timing, Philippe took a liking to the leg-side where he smashed three sixes as he eyed his first score of substance for nearly a month. But he fell on 32 in the eighth over and Avendano followed shortly after as Sixers' momentum came to a halt.
They went eight overs without a boundary leaving the burden to Christian, who smashed 73 to almost single-handedly take down Scorchers at Gold Coast. Even though he was occasionally left frustrated by the slow pitch, Christian still managed to inject Sixers with a necessary late flurry mixed with inventiveness and sheer power.
With Sixers' top-order struggling of late, Christian's return to form has somewhat papered over the cracks.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth