Fawad Ahmed, Ian Cockbain give Adelaide Strikers playoff sniff with six-wicket win
Adelaide Strikers 4 for 130 (Cockbain 35*, Short 34, Hardie 3-31) beat Perth Scorchers 9 for 127 (Evans 39, Fawad 3-30, Siddle, 2-20) by six wickets
Adelaide Strikers started their playoff push without Rashid Khan in impressive fashion after brushing aside a short-handed Perth Scorchers by six wickets at the Adelaide Oval. Veteran legspinner Fawad Ahmed filled the sizeable hole with three wickets to help restrict Scorchers to a lowly 9 for 127 before Strikers knocked off the target with 18 balls to spare.
Fifth-placed Strikers moved back inside the playoff frame with 20 points, while Scorchers - who have 38 points - missed out on a chance to lock up top spot.
The home team claimed the Jason Gillespie Trophy to cap the BBL's inaugural First Nations Round, which honoured and celebrated Indigenous culture.
Quick Matthew Kelly and opener Cameron Bancroft were late withdrawals for Scorchers after they returned positive PCR results for Covid-19, joining star batter Colin Munro who had also tested positive earlier in the week, while allrounder Ashton Agar didn't play due to a shoulder injury. As part of the BBL's rejigged scheduling amid Covid-19 chaos engulfing the tournament, the match started at 10.10am local time in just the second morning match in BBL history.
Rashid-less Strikers dominate with the ball
It always loomed as a tough ask for Strikers without their spin ace Rashid Khan, but they started life without him rather brightly. With the Afghanistan spinner headed home, Strikers fortunately had the experienced Fawad to rely on, and he delivered in spades. The 39-year-old claimed the early wicket of Kurtis Patterson before being put under pressure by Ashton Turner and Laurie Evans.
Under siege, a rattled Fawad bowled too short but he enjoyed returning in the backend with Turner in the pavilion, thus giving Strikers a firm stranglehold in the 15th over with the wickets of Evans and Jason Behrendorff, who was deceived by a gem of a wrong 'un.
The ageless Peter Siddle, who has had a stellar BBL as stand-in skipper, also starred with the wicket of opener Nick Hobson off his first ball and the important strike of an in-form Aaron Hardie, as Strikers tore through Scorchers' weakened middle-order. Siddle's strong leadership has galvanised Strikers, who now have belief after their third win from four matches.
Weakened Scorchers rue sloppy batting
Given the early start time, the players could have been forgiven for going through the motions with Scorchers meandering to 1 for 19 in the four-over powerplay after being sent in.
But Turner and Evans then provided a much-needed spark and impressively counterattacked to flip the momentum. Turner, the in-form Scorchers captain, mixed beautiful drives with inventive strokes, including an audacious scoop shot for six off seamer Henry Thornton. But his 15-ball 28 whirlwind ended on the last ball before the drinks break when he holed out in a rash stroke, thus triggering a middle-order collapse.
The burden fell on Evans, whose momentum was halted after a Harry Conway yorker hit him in the toe in a painful blow. He departed in the next over as Scorchers fell apart in a disappointing batting display where they rued sluggish strokes, none more so than the momentum-shifting dismissal of Turner.
Debutant Cockbain shows maturity
This could have been a potentially tricky chase for Strikers, who have generally struggled with their batting this season. But hard-hitting opener Matt Short once again showed his liking for the four-over powerplay with an assault on Behrendorff in a fearless start for Strikers. But as is his bane, Short was unable to convert an attractive start, falling for 34 off 28 balls. Opener Henry Hunt departed first ball after the drinks break, followed by veteran Jonathan Wells, to leave Strikers at 3 for 91.
But debutant Ian Cockbain held firm with a mature knock of 35* from 24 balls in another tonic for Strikers, who claimed consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Scorchers' depth being tested
An ailed Evans could not take his place behind the stumps after injuring the big toe on his left foot. But despite being short-handed, Scorchers still fancied their chances given their prowess at defending low totals. But they never were in the hunt with Behrendorff unusually wayward, and they clearly missed Kelly's full-length mastery and so too Agar's miserly left-arm spin. Scorchers used legspinner Peter Hatzoglou early, who looked dangerous during his spell but couldn't crash through Strikers' top order.
Hardie, who has been emerging nicely as an allrounder, claimed a trio of wickets at the backend but it wasn't enough for an under-manned Scorchers, who will be sweating on the availability of key players as they attempt to secure pole position for the playoffs.