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Analysis

How Perth Scorchers won their fourth BBL crown

They were constantly on the road in a season ravaged by Covid-19, but adversity only galvanised their battle-hardened group

The Perth Scorchers players celebrate their fourth title win, Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers, BBL 2021-22, final, Melbourne, January 28, 22

Perth Scorchers beat Sydney Sixers to the title  •  Getty Images

Perth Scorchers ended a five-year drought in style after claiming a record fourth BBL title with a crushing 79-run victory over arch-rivals Sydney Sixers in the final. Much like in the early years of the competition, where they reached the final five out of the first six times, they have set a new benchmark after a remarkable 2021-22 season, yielding a 13-3 record compiled almost entirely on the road. Here are the main factors why Scorchers cemented their status as the BBL's powerhouse franchise.
Galvanised by daunting road trips
Due to Western Australia's unyielding hard border which remains in place indefinitely, Scorchers knew they would be on the road for the majority of the season. They hoped to squeeze in a few early games at Optus Stadium, their fortress, but they only managed to host Brisbane Heat on December 8.
Then they were away for 50 straight days, enduring various restrictions, and also life away from home for those based in Perth. It was surely tough, but they embraced the challenge head-on. "There has not been an ounce of whinging, everyone has been focused and resilient," opener Kurtis Patterson had recently told ESPNcricinfo.
Scorchers had been somewhat here before, having only played four games last season in Perth, but this was an even more daunting task. Obviously, it helps in camaraderie when the team is winning, but the adversity undoubtedly galvanised the group. Perhaps drawing from former coach Justin Langer's playbook, Scorchers relished a backs-against-the-wall approach which made the triumph the sweetest in their storied history.
Depth and continuity
On January 28, 2015, Ashton Turner, Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye were celebrating knocking off Sydney Sixers for the title; fast forward exactly seven years, and it's déjà vu, with the trio of stalwarts playing key roles in Scorchers' latest success against the same opposition.
Stability is part of Scorchers' fabric, and they have always built their team around a core of Western Australia players. Even after a couple of unsuccessful seasons in 2018-19 and 2019-20 - when they finished eighth and sixth, respectively - Scorchers stuck with their mantra hoping continuity provides an edge over teams more transient in nature.
More than ever, Scorchers' vaunted depth was needed during a Covid-19-ravaged season and amid the rigours of being on the road. Such was their reservoir of talent that those sidelined for the final included impressive quick Matt Kelly, who claimed 14 wickets at 12.78 in six matches, batter Cameron Bancroft and emerging allrounder Aaron Hardie, who remains worth keeping an eye on in the seasons to come.
Every championship team also needs some luck, and Scorchers were fortunate not to have been decimated by Covid-19 and injuries at the wrong time like Sixers. They did have their own dramas later in the season, but Scorchers were reloaded by the finals and further strengthened by inclusions of Marsh, Jhye Richardson and Josh Inglis from Ashes duties.
It meant Scorchers fielded their strongest team of the season against Sixers in the qualifying final, and then went into the final unchanged in a far cry to their beleaguered opponents.
Blueprint of success: bat first
As has been their preference, Scorchers elected to bat first ten out of 11 times that they won the toss this season, eventually going on to win nine of those matches. Scorchers have their formula worked out, and it remains relatively straightforward: set a decent total and then let a star-studded attack do the rest.
This season, their batting appeared even bolder than previous versions, thus allowing them to average a particularly healthy 170 when batting first. And that meant that Scorchers' knack of successfully defending small totals was rarely needed this season.
Patterson stars at the top, Marsh brings fear factor
Scorchers had some critics heading into this season, mainly due to having a perceived lack of firepower at the top after losing big-hitting imports Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy. But an unexpected gamble went the Scorchers' way: left-hander Patterson, who smashed a team-leading 391 runs at a strike rate of 142.18, was converted into a belligerent opener this season, batting at the top in all but one out of 13 innings.
Patterson's pyrotechnics allowed the powerful Colin Munro, who was used as an opener early in the season, to instead find a comfortable spot at No. 4.
Scorchers received another fillip with Turner's return to form after a few lean seasons, having also been bolstered by the success of English import Laurie Evans, who made the No. 6 position his own in his debut BBL season capped by an astonishing Player-of-the-Final performance. It meant Scorchers were loaded at every position in the top six, thus making a mockery of the scepticism that had started before the season.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Marsh also left off from his stunning T20 World Cup with a blistering BBL, especially early in the season where his purple patch was instrumental in Scorchers' six-game winning streak. Those victories in the bank proved pivotal for Scorchers, who had, by then, essentially sewn up the top position early, thus in turn allowing them to navigate eventual injuries and Covid-19 drama.
Marsh gave Scorchers an aura, and his intimidating presence made it easy to overlook their wealth of batting talent who could go about their business.
Handling slower pitches on east coast
Scorchers have traditionally found slower, turning pitches on the east coast difficult. However, that was not the case this season with their batting being more adept against turn. Moreover, their own spinners Ashton Agar and Peter Hatzoglou relished the conditions and developed into a formidable tandem with 33 wickets combined.
They often strangled opponents after the four-over powerplay - Agar's overall economy rate was just 6.79 and Hatzoglou's 7.26 - and had a knack of taking vital wickets. In the off-season, Scorchers had a punt on Hatzoglou, who crossed over from Melbourne Renegades, ahead of veteran Fawad Ahmed, with the 23-year-old legspinner Hatzoglou repaying the faith.
The spin twins Agar and Hatzoglou strengthened an irresistible bowling attack which conceded more than 155 only twice this season, having also impressively dominated the power surge to turn the tables on a ploy designed to favour batters.
Strong leadership
It has been a tough ask for head coach Adam Voges ever since he replaced Langer four years ago. He was under pressure after Scorchers missed consecutive finals, but has had them bouncing back emphatically. Voges' sage leadership has shone through, and he has worked well with a composed Turner, who was named permanent skipper this season after filling the role last year when the then captain Marsh worked his way back from injury.
The duo is measured and doesn't seek headlines, ensuring Scorchers run a tight ship. Both deserve plaudits - especially Voges, who has now won BBL titles as Scorchers' coach as well as captain - and so too general manager Kade Harvey, who made all the right moves in assembling arguably Scorchers' greatest ever team.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth