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Scorchers chase back-to-back titles despite personnel challenges

Scorchers have lost Marsh, Evans, Munro and Patterson from last year's title-winning XI while new recruit Phil Salt has also been ruled out

An ecstatic Perth Scorchers squad celebrate their title victory, BBL 2021-22, final, Melbourne, January 28, 22

An ecstatic Perth Scorchers squad celebrate their title victory  •  Getty Images

Captain Ashton Turner
Coach Adam Voges
SquadAshton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Cooper Connolly, Faf du Plessis, Stephen Eskinazi, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Peter Hatzoglou, Nick Hobson, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kelly, Adam Lyth, Hamish McKenzie, Tymal Mills, Lance Morris, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye
In Faf du Plessis, Stephen Eskinazi, Cameron Green, Adam Lyth, Hamish McKenzie
Out David Moody, Laurie Evans, Mitchell Marsh, Colin Munro, Kurtis Patterson

What happened in the draft

Scorchers skipped their platinum pick despite former player David Willey's availability. They retained Laurie Evans, who was a hero in last season's BBL final, after Sydney Sixers made a play for him, but the Englishman's contract was later terminated following a positive result on an anti-doping test. Scorchers also selected big-hitting batter Phil Salt, but like Evans he will miss the BBL season after suffering a shoulder injury during England's recent ODI series against Australia. Left-arm quick Tymal Mills was set to return to Scorchers after seamlessly fitting into their star-studded attack during a short stint last season but was a late withdrawal from the tournament due to a family emergency. Without Evans, Salt, Mills and injured star Mitchell Marsh, Scorchers had to make late changes with former South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis and English batters Adam Lyth and Stephen Eskinazi coming into the squad.

Last season: winners

Scorchers returned to the top of the BBL after a remarkable triumph against the odds. Scorchers' fourth BBL title was arguably their best after only playing one home game due to strict Covid-19 border rules in Western Australia at the time. After beating Brisbane Heat at Optus Stadium in their season-opener, Scorchers had to endure more than 50 days on the road but it didn't matter as they won 11 of 14 games to finish the regular season on top of the ladder. They then twice beat two-time defending champs Sydney Sixers in the finals, including a 79-run thrashing in the decider to cap one of the greatest title campaigns seen in T20 franchise cricket.

International impact

Test allrounder Cameron Green should be available after the South Africa series. He's only played 13 matches previously in BBL08 and 09 with little success, but there is much intrigue over how he'll fare ahead of what might well be his first IPL season. Du Plessis and Lyth will be available for the first half of the season before heading to new T20 leagues in UAE and South Africa. Eskinazi, who has a terrific T20 record in England, is available for the whole season.

Key player

Scorchers will boast a new-look batting order this season. Along with the aforementioned Munro, Evans and Marsh, they will also be without opener Kurtis Patterson who signed with Sixers after a big season as a belligerent batter against type. Local batters Cameron Bancroft and Nick Hobson will probably get more of a run than initially expected in a Scorchers batting line-up that suddenly looks a bit vulnerable. They'll be hoping explosive wicketkeeper-batter Josh Inglis can fire and he should be available throughout the season. Inglis, who made his T20I and ODI debuts this year, was a late withdrawal from Australia's T20 World Cup campaign after a freak hand injury sustained while playing golf. He has struggled with the bat in his return but a rapid 85 against South Australia in the Marsh Cup reinforced his match-winning abilities. Inglis is highly rated by national selectors and should figure in calculations for the next ODI and T20 World Cups. A strong BBL will only strengthen his standing.

Young player to watch

Following in the footsteps of Marsh and Green, there is growing hype over emerging allrounder Aaron Hardie who is likely to finally carve out a permanent spot in Scorchers' line-up. The 23-year-old had a breakout domestic season last year capped by scoring a century in the Sheffield Shield final to help Western Australia end a 23-year title drought. With his batting and seam bowling compared to childhood friend Green, who is five months younger than Hardie, he has caught the eye of national selectors and was part of Australia A 's tour to Sri Lanka mid-year and last month represented a formidable Prime Minister's XI team against West Indies. Hardie's form has been modest so far this domestic season, but with more responsibility amid a settled role for Scorchers he looms as a new BBL star.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth