Perth Scorchers 4 for 114 (Cartwright 47*, Agar 26*, Neser 2-18) beat Adelaide Strikers 112 (Carey 44, Agar 3-19) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ashton Agar and Hilton Cartwright lifted Perth Scorchers back to the top of the Big Bash League table by negotiating a tricky chase against Adelaide Strikers on a challenging surface at Traeger Park in Alice Springs.
The first BBL match to be played in the Northern Territory was a low scoring affair between two of the competition's strongest bowling and fielding line-ups, with Agar's three wickets contributing to a Strikers collapse before he aided Cartwright in ensuring the Scorchers did not go the same way.
Alex Carey had given the Strikers a decent start before the Scorchers, led by Ashton Turner in the absence of the captain Adam Voges - suspended for a second slow over rate offence during the tournament, regathered themselves. The Scorchers then appeared to be struggling in the pursuit thanks to the now familiar brilliance of Rashid Khan, but some sensible batting by Cartwright and Agar took them to a victory that also won them the Jason Gillespie Trophy.
Adjusting to the slow lane
Coming from Adelaide Oval and the WACA ground, these two sides are used to swift and bouncy pitches with sleek outfields. Neither were evident in Alice Springs, leaving the Strikers and Scorchers unsure of what a strong score would be. Given this was the first BBL match to be played at the ground, there was also a lack of statistical information available, making this a case of the awkward unknown for players, coaches and analysts alike.
The fluent Carey was able to get into stride with regular boundaries and had some initial support from Jake Weatherald, a Northern Territory product, but after his dismissal trying to sweep Will Bosisto the Strikers seemed eager to accelerate in a manner that suggested they felt they needed a score in the region of 160 or more.
Falling apart through the middle
As each wicket fell, the Strikers grew more impatient, and it showed in their shot selection, which was chaotic at best. This was epitomised by Jake Lehmann, who to his fifth ball and with the scorecard reading an uncertain 4 for 81, offered up an attempt to reverse paddle Agar that lobbed in the general vicinity of Mitchell Johnson. His resulting one-handed catch was outstanding, but was only made possible by the sort of shot that betrayed an addled mind.
In all, the Strikers would lose all 10 wickets for 63, having been nicely placed at 0 for 49. Among all collapses in the history of the BBL, only one by Melbourne Renegades in the fourth edition of the tournament was more catastrophic. Agar, Tim Bresnan and Matthew Kelly all contributed with wickets and parsimony, in weather that forced Kelly to seek treatment for heat exhaustion after the innings had concluded.
In order to win, the Strikers needed a couple early wickets in the Powerplay and then to have Rashid Khan weave his spell on a surface that would offer some assistance. While unlucky when the umpire Donovan Koch appeared to miss a thin edge down the leg side by Bosisto off Michael Neser first ball of the innings, the first part of the equation went their way when Bosisto clumped the same bowler to mid-on. Ben Laughlin then held an outstanding catch, diving across from mid-off to see off Michael Klinger, giving Rashid his opening.
Used in one over spells by the stand-in captain Colin Ingram, Rashid fizzed a legbreak past Cartwright, and in his second he rushed a googly into Turner's leg stump soon after Cameron Bancroft had tugged Peter Siddle to short midwicket. Agar's left-handedness was something of an advantage, but even he was exceedingly fortunate in edging a legbreak past the stumps as Rashid continued to tease.
Cool heads and no-balls
As Cartwright and Agar pushed towards their goal, Siddle probed for a wicket. He had reacted with incredulity when the umpire John Ward ignored a first-ball lbw appeal against Turner, saying the batsman had managed to get some bat on a delivery clocked at 141kph. Ward was very alert, however, when Siddle thought he had Cartwright taken on the midwicket boundary with 24 runs still required. Siddle had already begun to celebrate when he noticed Ward's arm outstretched for a no-ball, and replays showed it to be a correct call on the Victorian seamer's front foot.
When the resulting free-hit was clumped down the ground for a six by Cartwright, the equation had lost most of its tension, leaving Agar and Cartwright to cruise home. They were aided by another no-ball along the way, this time against Laughlin for a high full toss. The Scorchers were thus rewarded for keeping calm in the chase where the Strikers had lost their composure in trying to set a target.