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Brisbane Heat vs Adelaide Strikers: how the BBL Eliminator could be won

Both teams have struggled for batting consistency this season while the Heat have been smart with the X-Factor

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
29-Jan-2021
Alex Carey has hit form in the latter stage of the tournament  •  Getty Images

Alex Carey has hit form in the latter stage of the tournament  •  Getty Images

Brisbane Heat and Adelaide Strikers have to win four games in a row if they want to take out the BBL title and it starts with Friday night's Eliminator at the Gabba.
Both sides scraped into the Eliminator with the Heat winning their last two matches to qualify while the Strikers had to sweat on both Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars losing on the final day to book a ticket to Brisbane to face the Heat.
After a 14-game regular season there is plenty of evidence as to how the two teams are likely to line up, but these are three key areas that could decide the contest with views from the BBL's player acquisition and cricket consultant Trent Woodhill.
Batting-order challenges
Both sides have struggled with the bat throughout the season and both teams have consistently tinkered with their batting orders. The Heat have finally settled on Chris Lynn and Max Bryant as the opening combination with Marnus Labuschagne at No.3 after Bryant was made an X-Factor sub and batted at No. 6 in the Heat's 82-run loss to the Strikers in Adelaide.
The Strikers have also returned to the trusted opening combination of Jake Weatherald and Alex Carey that won them BBL 07, with both men finding form late in the tournament which means overseas batsman Phil Salt is out of position in the middle order.
Balance of the bowling attack
Xavier Bartlett bowled well in the two previous meetings against the Strikers. He was the only bowler to escape unscathed during Carey's scintillating century at Adelaide Oval taking 1 for 30 from four overs, while he took a career-best 3 for 24 in the other meeting with the Strikers at the Gabba.
The Strikers face a similar dilemma with Daniel Worrall. With the new ball often swinging at the Gabba, he seems a good option to include in the XI. The Strikers opted for him instead of left-arm spinner Danny Briggs in their last match against the Thunder and he knocked over Usman Khawaja with the new ball.
"I think they're just working through getting their bowling right," Woodhill told ESPNcricinfo. "Is it an extra spinner or is it an extra quick? I think that's the first one.
"From the Heat's point of view it probably then goes to, are they looking to utilize a [Matt] Kuhnemann, but if not, are they looking to utilise a Bartlett or a [James] Bazley. I think it's then working out which way they want to go, what are their X-Factors and where they need support."
An important X-Factor?
The Heat have been the most adventurous side in the BBL with the use of the X-Factor.
Bartlett was subbed out of the last win over the Scorchers without bowling a ball as the Heat opted for an all-round option in Jack Wildermuth to give extra batting after batting first. He has also previously been subbed out for Morne Morkel after bowling just one over upfront with Morkel bowl four overs in the last 10.
"It's not just about picking your XI," Woodhill said. "It's about how do we cover our bases if things go pear-shaped or we lose the toss or if we don't read the wicket right. That's a great match-up straight away with [Jason] Gillespie and [Darren] Lehmann."
Briggs bowled four overs in each of the wins over the Heat taking 3 for 20 and 1 for 28. The Heat have not used a single left-hander in their top order in their last eight games with the left-arm orthodox of Briggs and the right-arm legspin of Liam O'Connor looking like an excellent option for captain Travis Head to turn to despite the absence of Khan.
"Obviously having no Rashid Khan brings them back to the pack," Woodhill said. "Do you play Worrall with a view that if bowl first you bowl him one upfront? If you bat first, you'll see if there's any movement. Do you bring in another spinner or another batter?
"That's the beauty, they'll lob up on matchday with a plan but that may change once they look at the wicket which I'm guessing is going to be flat."

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne