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Feature

Versatility the key for game-changing Behrendorff

Back from injury, Jason Behrendorff has returned to his best, bowling the towering left-arm seam that could propel his name back into national reckoning

Tristan Lavalette in Melbourne
30-Dec-2015
Jason Behrendorff took his best T20 figures of 4 for 22, Perth Scorchers v Adelaide Strikers, Big Bash League 2014-15, Perth, December 22, 2014

Jason Behrendorff was a star member of the Perth Scorchers' title-winning outfit last season, with 15 wickets at an average of 16.73 and an economy rate of 6.27  •  Getty Images

Scorchers spearhead Jason Behrendorff's game-changing spell against Melbourne Renegades is set to propel his name back in the national spotlight. Behrendorff (2 for 14 off four overs) changed the complexion of the crucial BBL fixture at the Etihad Stadium, where he dismissed Chris Gayle and Cameron White off consecutive deliveries in the 12th over.
Before Behrendorff's fourth over, Renegades openers Gayle and Aaron Finch had plundered 98 runs at over eight-and-a-half runs an over, and a score of around 200 looked a distinct possibility.
Behrendorff had already bowled three tight overs in a first spell, conceding only 10 runs. In the 12th over, Scorchers captain Michael Klinger gambled and decided to use his trump card in a desperate bid to break the opening partnership.
Behrendorff was finally rewarded for his opening spell, during which he had continually beaten Gayle's flashing bat, with two wickets in his final over. The dismissals were a snapshot of Behrendorff's allure; he tempted Gayle into a skied attempted pull with an offcutter that bounced awkwardly, and then lured White into a mistimed drive with a slower ball, snaffling the return catch brilliantly with his right hand.
The Renegades' momentum was deflated and they could never recover, eventually slumping to a 10-wicket loss that has put their BBL campaign in peril.
Behrendorff said he did not lose his nerve amid a Scorchers team that was uncharacteristically ragged in the field in the opening 10 overs.
"The wickets stopped their momentum, and stopping momentum is something we speak about it," he told ESPNcricinfo. "At that stage, my plan was to bowl wide and change the pace because the wicket offered something with changes of pace."
After a strong start to the domestic season, Behrendorff was considered a potential Test replacement for Mitchell Johnson but back injuries stymied his chances and he subsequently missed a month, including the Scorchers' opening BBL match against Adelaide Strikers. Behrendorff initially suffered a stress fracture in his back after last season's BBL final.
The 25-year-old returned against the Brisbane Heat at the WACA on Boxing Day and finished with figures of 2 for 32 from four overs. Behrendorff impressed even though he struggled with his rhythm at times.
"The body feels good. Hopefully it can continue to feel good," Behrendorff said. "There are no issues with my body, I felt really good after the first game. The more I play, the better I will feel."
Behrendorff did not believe the recurring back injuries were of major concern. "Injuries are just one of those things of being a fast bowler," he said. "I have done work on my technique and fitness, and I'm ticking all the boxes."
Towering at 193cm, Behrendorff is an appealing prospect and could be in the mix for Australia's upcoming tour of New Zealand and the World T20 in India. The left-armer looms as a capable replacement for injured Australia spearhead Mitchell Starc. While not quite possessing the explosiveness of Starc, Behrendorff is capable of hustling batsmen with pace and his imposing height generates awkward bounce.
Behrendorff has been a star for the Scorchers, claiming 15 wickets at an average of 16.73 and an economy rate of 6.27 during last summer's title-winning campaign, with much of his success attributed to his versatility, his bag of tricks including piercing Yorkers, canny slower deliveries and rearing bouncers.
Far from being a one-format specialist, Behrendorff possesses an impressive first-class record, with 86 wickets at an average of 25.22.
"Consistency and being versatile is the key, and the two things I have been working on. It has been working so far," Behrendorff said. "I would love to [be part of Australia's tour of New Zealand], but you never know. I just have to keep taking wickets and performing, and see what happens down the track.
"I would love to be playing all forms of cricket for Australia in the future, that's for sure."