Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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Perth Scorchers 4 for 156 (Marsh 59, Patterson 26, Swepson 2-19) beat Brisbane Heat 7 for 155 (Bryant 81, Hatzoglou 2-17, Behrendorff 2-25) by six wickets
Mitchell Marsh made a spectacular return to the BBL as minor premiers Perth Scorchers tuned up for the playoffs with a six-wicket victory over Brisbane Heat.
In their regular season finale, a reloaded Scorchers overhauled Heat's 7 for 155 with eight balls to spare highlighted by Marsh's brutal 59 off 34 balls.
The match played at almost empty Marvel Stadium lost its edge before a ball was bowled when Sydney Sixers' earlier defeat to Adelaide Strikers locked up top spot for Scorchers and a place in the Qualifier on Saturday between the top two teams on the ladder.
Seventh-placed Heat, whose campaign had been derailed by Covid-19, were out of playoff contention and their season ends against Sixers on Wednesday.
Marsh returns with a bang
Marsh lit up the BBL before being called up for Australia's Ashes squad and he has clearly not lost his form after destroying the Heat. After the early wickets of Josh Inglis and Kurtis Patterson, Marsh returned to his favoured ground where he twice bludgeoned Melbourne Renegades last month.
He started slowly by knocking the ball around before launching a slog sweep for six off left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann in the 11th over. Marsh then put the foot down in a remarkable power surge with 35 runs from 12 balls as he muscled the ball to all corners to pulverise a deflated Heat. He fell shortly after but the damage had been done in an ominous warning ahead of the playoffs. He combined well with Colin Munro, who returned after recovering from Covid-19.
Inglis, who like Marsh had been part of Australia's Ashes squad, missed out on invaluable time in the middle making just 18 in his first BBL match since December 28. He has scored just 45 from six innings this season after being locked in a running battle with Alex Carey for Australia's vacant wicket-keeping position ahead of the Ashes.
Swepson shines for Heat
Heat's bowling has looked formidable after the recent inclusions of Michael Neser and Mitchell Swepson, who were both part of Australia's Ashes squad. They have missed most of the BBL but showed their prowess with three wickets between them but there wasn't much Heat could do when a red-hot Marsh started teeing off.
In an encouragement for Australian cricket, legspinner Swepson bowled well and tied down Scorchers mid-innings in a notable improvement from his ragged performance against Melbourne Stars a day earlier.
He picked up the wickets of Patterson and Marsh to stand out for Heat, who would have wished he was available for much more of the season.
Hatzoglou and Agar restrict Heat
With the match essentially a dead rubber, Scorchers appeared to go through the motions with a flat effort early before clawing back control in trademark fashion after the powerplay. In his return, Marsh made an immediate impact with the wicket of Chris Lynn in his first over as Scorchers' spin duo of Peter Hatzoglou and Ashton Agar took over with a strangulation in the middle overs.
Legspinner Hatzoglou has proven a good recruit having crossed over from Renegades and he bowled miserly while claiming the wickets of Ben Duckett and Nathan McSweeney. He was well supported by Agar, who returned from a shoulder injury, in what has become an important tandem for Scorchers' attack.
It wasn't all rosy though with seamer Andrew Tye, who has had a stellar season, unusually wayward leaking 37 runs from three overs while speedster Lance Morris was also expensive.
Bryant rediscovers big-hitting exploits
In his first match since January 1, Max Bryant returned in style in his best knock in a difficult season, where he had made double figures just three times in eight previous innings.
Bryant dominated the strike early and regulated Lynn to an onlooker as he smashed 34 of Heat's 39 runs in the four-over powerplay. But he lacked support with wickets tumbling regularly as Heat lost their momentum. They finally used the power surge in the 16th over and it provided the necessary tonic with Bryant smashing a six off Marsh over midwicket while skipper Jimmy Peirson also swung lustily.
Having posted his highest BBL score, Bryant eyed his maiden century but fell short after holing out in the 18th over. A six off the last ball from Peirson, who finished 31 not out off 19 balls, pushed them past 150 but it was another mishmash of a batting effort from Heat who have long frustrated their supporters.
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