Turner fifty, Connolly cameo help Scorchers defend BBL crown
Connolly, Hobson add 41 off just 15 balls to seal unlikely chase for Scorchers' fifth title
Perth Scorchers 178 for 5 (Turner 53, Kuhnemann 1-28) beat Brisbane Heat 175 for 7 (McSweeney 41, Behrendorff 2-26) by five wickets
Teenager Cooper Connolly and Nick Hobson kept their cool in a nerve-jangling chase as Perth Scorchers ended Brisbane Heat's remarkable revival with an epic five-wicket victory to win their fifth BBL title.
Chasing 176, in a fitting end to a madcap BBL season, Scorchers endured a see-saw filled with two horrendous run-outs but also composed batting from skipper Ashton Turner then Cooper and Hobson at the end.
It came down to Scorchers needing 10 off the final over with Hobson turning from villain to hero with a six then a boundary to trigger bedlam at a near-capacity Optus Stadium. The crowd of 53,886 was the largest for a cricket game at the Burswood venue and the fourth biggest BBL crowd in history.
Connolly and Hobson, the unlikely heroesFor such a veteran team, Scorchers endured a somewhat tardy performance with bat and ball marked by Stephen Eskinazi's run-out from a direct throw after casually attempting an easy single. He failed to have game awareness and barely made an attempt to stretch out to make his ground in an embarrassing dismissal.
After losing in-form Cameron Bancroft and Aaron Hardie in quick succession, Scorchers were in trouble at 3 for 54 with the crowd muted.
But in strode Turner, who has performed a slew of rescue acts this season in a bounce back season for him. Scorchers needed him to put on his cape again with run rate spiralling over 11 and he put the foot down with a six off Xavier Bartlett kick-starting him and sparking the home faithful.
Turner dominated the strike from Josh Inglis, a power hitter in his own right, but who was content playing the support act. They put the foot down during the power surge overs in the 15th and 16th over as Turner notched his half-century with a six.
But the match turned during a dramatic 17th over with Inglis holing out off Bartlett before Turner was run out in an awful mix-up with Hobson.
Scorchers needed 39 off 19 runs but Connolly stepped up and smashed 18 runs off James Bazley in the 18th over to swing the match.
Connolly, a former Australia Under-19 captain, rode his luck when he was dropped on 19 by Josh Brown in the deep before Hobson, an accountant in his day job, added to Scorchers' lore with the winning blow.
Johnson steps up but in vainHeat's remarkable late season revival had been largely attributed to the returns of Test stars Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne. But tearaway Spencer Johnson also gave Heat a jolt after debuting mid-season and he increasingly gained confidence through close mentoring from Khawaja.
Dubbed the 'Italian stallion' due to his heritage, Johnson promised to be a handful on the traditionally pace-friendly Perth Stadium surface having claimed his first three-wicket BBL haul last start against Sydney Sixers. He didn't disappoint. bowling at speeds near 150 kmph, and claimed the key wicket of Hardie, who had twice bludgeoned Heat this season.
Johnson roared with delight as Heat increasingly believed, but they ultimately fell short in heart-breaking fashion. They will rue Brown's dropped catch but will be mighty proud of almost claiming an unlikely second title against all the odds.
Behrendorff musters his wealth of experienceIt felt like it was going to be a tough outing for veteran left-arm quick Jason Behrendorff after his superb opening over unluckily went for 13 after three inside edges to the boundary from Brown.
But Behrendorff, the only player in the match who was part of the final between the teams a decade ago, was unruffled and continued to bowl a nagging line.
Taking his lead, Scorchers did well to tie down Heat after an initial onslaught from Brown, including spinner Connolly who bowled shortly after the powerplay having only bowled one over in his short BBL career. He handled the pressure well to concede just four runs but Scorchers struggled to break a blossoming partnership between Nathan McSweeney and Sam Heazlett.
At 1 for 104, Heat took the power surge in the 13th over at a pivotal juncture with Behrendorff returning to bowl his final over.
He struck immediately to dismiss Heazlett with a menacing short delivery that was caught at short fine leg then dismissed skipper Jimmy Peirson in almost identical fashion. Behrendorff finished with 2 for 26 to be the standout as his fellow seamers all proved expensive.
Bryant rediscovers big-hitting bestPeirson bravely decided to bat even though Scorchers had almost mastered chasing this season with a 9-2 record when batting second, including twice cruising over the line against Heat.
Perhaps he was swayed by the stifling temperatures, which hovered at 38 degrees when the game started forcing some fans to seek relief in the watering holes dotting the stadium.
Peirson would have felt vindicated when Brown carved 25 off his first 10 balls before McSweeney and Heazlett steadied Heat with a 79-run partnership. But Heat were mostly tied down in the middle overs marked by a dire power surge yielding 2 for 8. They needed a lift in the backend and big-hitting Max Bryant responded with 31 off 14 balls, including a trio of sixes.
Once part of a devastating opening partnership with Chris Lynn, Bryant had failed to carve out a regular spot before being recalled against Sydney Sixers last start. He wound back the clock and his momentum spilled over to a final ball six by Bartlett to lift Heat to a highly competitive total that ultimately proved not enough.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth