'Mate, we can do it. I have full faith in ourselves'

Perth Scorchers' BBL title-winning stars Cooper Connolly, Nick Hobson recall their approach

Cooper Connolly (left) and Nick Hobson rejoice after their match-winning stand  •  AFP/Getty Images

Cooper Connolly (left) and Nick Hobson rejoice after their match-winning stand  •  AFP/Getty Images

By the end of an unforgettable BBL final, inexperienced Cooper Connolly and unheralded Nick Hobson etched their names into Perth Scorchers' lore to become unexpected heroes at a febrile Perth Stadium.
It wasn't in the script when ice cool skipper Ashton Turner appeared set to once again rescue defending champions Scorchers in a nerve-jangling instant classic against Brisbane Heat. He reached his half-century with a six but at 4 for 137, chasing 176, disaster struck when Turner was involved in a horrendous mix-up with new batter Hobson.
"I'm still probably going to wake up with nightmares over that one," Hobson later said.
In another twist, fittingly capping a madcap BBL season, Scorchers still needed 39 off 19 balls as a rowdy crowd of 53,886 quickly turned silent.
Scorchers' hopes of a title defence rested on Hobson, who holds down a day job as an accountant and hadn't batted in six of the last eight games, and 19-year-old Connolly, having batted just once before in three BBL games. A rejuvenated Heat, having won seven of eight to qualify for the final, moved into favouritism but Connolly, who captained Australia at last year's Under-19 World Cup, remained unruffled.
"I just walked up to Hobbo and said 'mate, we can do this. I have full faith in ourselves'," Connolly said.
Hobson also had some words of wisdom to share with Connolly: "Keep a strong base and if it's there, try hit it for six and if it's not there, play a good cricket shot along the ground."
A nerveless Connolly took heed with a remarkable assault on Heat seamer James Bazley in the 18th over to turn the match on its head. He started with a six then two balls later whacked a short delivery to the boundary before capping the over with another blow into an increasingly delirious sea of orange fans.
"After that over from Bazley, I thought 'we can actually do this'," Connolly said. "We sort of just got on a roll and that's what momentum does, momentum helps you win games so I'm pretty happy."
Connolly's heroics reduced Scorchers' target to a much more manageable 20 runs off 12 balls, but his whirlwind appeared to be over on 19 when he skied to deep point only for Josh Brown to drop the catch. It meant Scorchers needed 10 runs off the final over against fringe Test quick Michael Neser.
"We even thought three twos and one boundary and we're away," Connolly said.
Hobson, however, had other ideas when he bludgeoned the second ball for a six over deep midwicket before sealing Scorchers' fifth title with a boundary to trigger celebrations that reverberated all over the stadium. The pair encapsulated the club's remarkable depth with Connolly and Hobson beneficiaries of Scorchers' horror injury run, which included star allrounder Mitchell Marsh missing the entire season.
"When I hit Neser in the final over, it was so loud and I couldn't hold my excitement," Hobson said. "I've never played in front of anything like that, I'll remember that forever."
"I felt like I had the full support of the coaches and captain the whole tournament, and it came off tonight."
Having taken annual leave from his accounting job, Hobson understandably won't be returning to the office on Monday.
"I'll come back the week after," Hobson laughed. "I'll let it all decompress."
While for Connolly, with his name being chanted by giddy fans in the aftermath, stardom awaits for Western Australia's latest cricket sensation.
"Not many 19-year-olds get to play in front of 50,000, so I'm just here to soak it all in and enjoy the moment," Connolly said. "It just gives me that extra boost that I can play at this level."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth