How do you replace Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja?
Brisbane Heat will also be missing Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw for the Challenger final at the SCG
Brisbane Heat and Sydney Sixers have been left pondering the sizeable batting holes of their departed Test players ahead of Thursday's clash at the SCG with a grand final spot up for grabs.
Heat captain Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw, along with Sixers opener Steven Smith, will be unavailable for the 'Challenger' final due to being part of Australia's Test tour of India.
The Heat trio sparked a resurgence with the team winning six of their last seven matches after being mired for much of the season near the bottom of the ladder.
They each made important contributions in finals victories on the road against Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Renegades to have Heat positioned for an unlikely tilt at a second BBL title.
But without three of their top four, Heat's batting depth will be tested as they recalled Nathan McSweeney, Max Bryant and Sam Heazlett to curb an expected fired-up Sixers attack, who were clobbered by Scorchers batters Ashton Turner and Cameron Bancroft in the qualifying final.
McSweeney has only played three matches this season, but notably smashed 84 off 51 balls against Sixers in Heat's 15-run victory at the Gabba in a high-scoring contest on January 1.
Once part of a devastating opening partnership with Chris Lynn, big-hitter Bryant failed to fire from seven matches this season and averaged just 15.71.
The 27-year-old Heazlett has not played this season, but the bright finals lights shouldn't faze him having mustered 48 BBL matches over the past seven seasons.
"We have lost some of our Australian players but the guys we are bringing in have played the format before so I don't have a problem with it," said Heat coach Wade Seccombe. "They have performed when they came in."
Sixers don't have as many holes to fill, but nonetheless need to replace Smith, who lit up the BBL with ballistic batting marked by consecutive centuries.
"We've played 10 games without Steve and had a few wins along the way so we're familiar with this group," said veteran batter Jordan Silk, who re-signed with Sixers on a three-year deal.
Sixers appear to have a ready made replacement in stalwart Daniel Hughes, who has been a reliable batter for Sixers over the years but restricted to just three matches this season.
"[Hughes] has trained well, he's been great around the group all year. He's probably one of the more unlucky players in the competition to not be playing," Silk said. "He's been a reliable performer at the Sixers for a number of years."
There are other options with Kurtis Patterson, who starred as an opener during Perth Scorchers' title-winning run last season, possibly being considered to move up the order having batted at No. 3 since Smith's return.
While allrounder Hayden Kerr could rekindle his elevation from last season's corresponding match, where he memorably hit an unbeaten 98 as an opener to lift Sixers past Adelaide Strikers in a last-ball thriller.
"[Kerr] is a vital piece for us down in that middle to lower order," Silk said. "Whether we'd see his value at the top in a game like this, I'm not sure what'll happen there. He's almost been probably too good at the role he's played at six to warrant moving him."
As they eye a seventh grand final appearance, Silk said Sixers would target Heat's new-look batting line-up.
"They have some big holes from a batting sense," Silk said. "Looking back to the game at the Gabba, where they were without those [Test] batters, [Josh] Brown and McSweeney stepped up. Queensland produce very good cricketers. We will do our research so we can stop them."
The winner plays Perth Scorchers on Saturday at Optus Stadium with a crowd of more than 50,000 expected.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth