Perth Scorchers 189 for 1 (Livingstone 77, Swepson 1-26) beat Brisbane Heat 150 for 9 (Burns 38, Hardie 3-46) by 49 runs (DLS method)
A stunning assault from Liam Livingstone and a superb spell from Jason Behrendorff helped Perth Scorchers reach their sixth BBL final with a comfortable win over Brisbane Heat in a rain-affected Challenger at Manuka Oval.
Livingstone shook off a relatively lean tournament with some trademark ball-striking in his 77 from just 39 balls, including six mammoth sixes. He revealed that he had spent the morning watching some footage of his best performances for the Scorchers last season in search of some confidence.
The Scorchers suffered a blow pre-game with Jason Roy ruled with an ankle injury he suffered playing a warm-up game at training in the days leading up to the Challenger. But Livingstone shared a century opening stand with Cameron Bancroft, who also made an unbeaten half-century coming in for just his seventh game of the tournament. Mitchell Marsh also smashed 49 not out from 28 balls before rain ended the Scorchers innings at 1 for 189 with 11 balls remaining.
The Heat were set a revised target of 200 from 18 overs and got off to a rollicking start before Behrendorff removed both Joe Denly and Chris Lynn off the last two balls of the Powerplay. The Scorchers then produced a trademark squeeze to end the Heat's season. Each of the bowlers, bar Jhye Richardson, picked up multiple wickets. Behrendorff, Fawad Ahmed and Andrew Tye finished with two apiece while Aaron Hardie took a career-best bag of 3 for 46. It could have been four or five with the Scorchers' only blemish a pair of dropped catches.
The Scorchers progress to face Sydney Sixers in the final at the SCG on Saturday night, with a chance to claim their fourth BBL title.
No Roy, no worries
Roy left a big hole for the Scorchers to fill at the top of the order and they replaced him with Bancroft, who had batted just five times in the tournament and had not opened in his last 21 T20 innings, dating back to BBL 08. The gamble paid off with Bancroft and Livingstone combining for a blistering century stand in just 10 overs. It was Livingstone's show, but Bancroft played a nice support act. Livingstone was troubled by Xavier Bartlett early, who finally got to bowl three overs straight for the first time in four matches, having been subbed out of the last three. He swung the ball late to beat the Englishman on numerous occasions. But Livingstone feasted on the rest of the attack. He struck five fours and six massive sixes with the Heat repeatedly getting too straight to him. Livingstone raced to 50 off just 27 balls, taking 14 from Mitchell Swepson's first over and then 27 off Marnus Labuschagne's second over. The two legspinners, who had loomed as a threat pre-game, got their lengths and speeds wrong and Livingstone clubbed them straight and over midwicket repeatedly.
Steketee subbed before rain intervened
With Bartlett bowling three overs upfront, the Heat elected to sub the second-leading wicket-taker in the BBL Mark Steketee for regular X-Factor Morne Morkel, much to the visible frustration of the Heat quick. The Scorchers pulled an unusual move of their own when Livingstone holed out off Swepson with more than eight overs to go. They promoted Marsh above the from duo of Colin Munro and Josh Inglis. The move looked like it may have backfired with Marsh and Bancroft failing to score a boundary for four overs. Swepson ended up with tidy figures of 1 for 26 from four. But when Marsh took the Power Surge it was a masterstroke. He faced 11 of the 12 balls and struck 28 runs, including five fours and a six, off Morkel and Ben Laughlin. Bancroft did reach a half-century off 40 balls via a thick outside edge to third man but there might have been concern in the Scorchers' dug out that they were leaving a lot of power in the shed as Bancroft struggled to find his timing. But as Bancroft struck his crispest boundary of the night over extra cover, the rain came and ended the Scorchers innings after 18.1 overs.
Behrendorff bags Lynn
The Scorchers didn't have a lot of good match-ups for Lynn given he had made two half-centuries against them this season. Lynn has a superb career record against Richardson and he and Denly collared the BBL's leading wicket-taker in the third over of the chase, taking 22 to get well ahead of the required rate. Behrendorff had never dismissed Lynn previously but had conceded just 43 from 39 balls in their career match-up. Lynn muscled two boundaries off Behrendorff but also faced four dots as he was cramped for room by the left-armer's crafty inswing. It would have been five dots and the run-out of Denly had Behrendorff hit with an underarm in his follow-through when Lynn tried to get off strike after another inside edge onto pad. Behrendorff completely deceived Denly with a 105kph slower ball off the second last ball of the Powerplay. Denly and Lynn crossed as the miscue ballooned to the safe hands of Marsh at midwicket. Lynn, without any thought of seeing off the left-armer, tried to launch Behrendorff's last ball over long-on and was clean bowled by another superb slower ball to leave the Heat in a huge hole.
The Scorchers of old returned with a ruthless bowling display to squeeze the life out of the Heat's season. Tye and Ahmed bowled back-to-back overs that cost just seven runs. Knockout hero Sam Heazlett could not repeat his heroics holing out off Hardie. Labuschagne also felt the pinch of the required rate and was clean bowled sweeping Ahmed. Hardie and Ahmed repeated the dose in the 10th and 11th as the required rate climbed above 15 runs per over. Jimmy Peirson hit borderline high full toss to deep square leg and Lewis Gregory was trapped plumb trying to sweep Ahmed. The legspinner bowled superbly to finish with 2 for 26, while Hardie finished with 3 for 46, although he had two catches dropped by Livingstone and Tye.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne