Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
Adelaide Strikers 5 for 197 (Carey 101, Labuschagne 2-20) beat Brisbane Heat 115 (Labuschagne 28, Agar 4-27) by 82 runs
Alex Carey sent a timely reminder to the Australia selectors of his quality in T20 cricket with a stunning century as Adelaide Strikers annihilated Brisbane Heat at Adelaide Oval to rocket back into finals calculations.
Just a day after being released by his IPL franchise Delhi Capitals, he made a near-flawless 101 from 62 balls with 10 fours and three sixes to become the first player to make a century in this BBL season and just the sixth player in BBL history to score two career centuries. Carey has been left out of Australia's last four T20 internationals but sent a message to the selectors with Australia's T20 squad for the New Zealand tour to be announced shortly.
Carey's innings was the cornerstone of the Strikers' total of 5 for 197, their highest score of the season. He reprised his once-mighty opening partnership with Jake Weatherald combining for a blistering 66 in the first six overs. Weatherald made 36 from 18 to set the platform before Carey finished the job.
Xavier Bartlett was only Heat bowler spared from the carnage claiming 1 for 30 in four overs. Marnus Labuschagne claimed two wickets but bowled two expensive overs and dropped Carey on 26.
The Heat capitulated in the chase after the early loss of Chris Lynn. Labuschagne's promotion to open backfired as the required run-rate sky-rocketed beyond repair. The Strikers produced a typically frugal team bowling display. Wes Agar took 4 for 27 to become just the second bowler behind Perth Scorcher Jhye Richardson to take 20 wickets in this BBL season. Peter Siddle successfully returned from his fractured thumb to claim 3 for 13.
The Strikers moved up to fourth on the BBL table while the Heat stayed in seventh with their net run-rate taking a hammer blow with just two games left in the season.
Old mates reunite
Weatherald and Carey are statistically among the best three opening partnerships in BBL history alongside Matthew Wade and D'Arcy Short for Hobart Hurricanes, and Alex Hales and Usman Khawaja for Sydney Thunder. But the pair had not opened together since BBL 08 with Carey moving down to No. 4 and then Weatherald sliding to No. 5 this season. Today, they reunited with the Strikers needing a batting circuit-breaker. They looked like they had slipped into an old, comfy pair of shoes.
Weatherald tore into the Heat's pace trio that had been so effective this season, thrashing any width and punishing any shorter lengths. Carey started slowly scoring just 6 off 9 but ignited his innings with two classical cover drives. They thumped 43 off the Powerplay and 66 in six overs. Lynn gambled with part-time legspin to the two left-handers. The move looked disastrous when Carey slog-swept Labuschagne twice into the stands. It then looked inspired when Carey chipped a simple return catch only for Labuschagne to grass it. But Weatherald holed out next ball. The Strikers still raced to 1 for 104 in the first 10 overs. The Heat braced for a substantial chase subbing in a batsman, Max Bryant, for Morne Morkel who pulled up sore after his single over.
Carey a class above
The Strikers stumbled for a period with returning skipper Travis Head falling to Labuschagne and then Phil Salt struggled in his new role at No. 4, having not batted outside the top three in his previous 53 T20 innings. The pair scored just 17 from the Power Surge with Bartlett not conceding a boundary in his Surge over that cost just seven runs. Carey did not panic and instead accelerated without fuss with five men out again. He scored boundaries all around the ground and quietly sneaked up on three-figures while Salt and Ryan Gibson fell at the other end. He brought up his century with a delightful lap scoop for four off Mark Steketee at the start of the 20th over. He might have been unlucky to be given out caught behind off the arm later in the over but he had done enough to help the Strikers post their highest score of the tournament.
Marnus' mystery move
Labuschagne was parachuted straight into the Heat line-up on return from Test duty at the expense of Bryant. But even with Bryant's reintroduction as the X-factor, Labuschagne was promoted to open for the first time in his 11-game T20 career having never scored more than 28 and with a career strike-rate of just 102. The move put all the scoring pressure on Lynn who holed out for 17 off 9 in the third over. Labuschagne's only boundary came via an outside edge in the fourth over as the Strikers' entire bowling brigade was allowed to ease into their work without much fear of punishment. Agar continued his excellent wicket-taking form removing both Labuschagne and Joe Denly in the ninth over to ensure the Bash Boost point was never threatened.
Siddle strikes twice in the Surge
The Heat boldly took the Surge in the 11th over to try and ignite the chase but it was Siddle who provided the spark with the first two balls for the Strikers. Lewis Gregory hit the first ball of the Surge straight up to midwicket and then Joe Burns was bounced out for the second match in a row, gloving the next delivery to Carey and the game was virtually over. The Heat managed to score just 2 for 12 from the Surge and Bryant looked lost batting in the middle order for just the second time in his 36-game T20 career. In his defence, his team-mates crumbled at the other end. Bryant did strike two massive sixes to score 25 off 15 but he was the second-last man out, holing out to Agar. Michael Neser capped the Strikers' night with a spectacular one-handed catch to end the match. He dove at full stretch his left at mid-off and plucked an improbable grab in his non-preferred left hand to give Siddle his third wicket.