The seventh edition of the Big Bash League will crown the fifth different titleholder in the competition’s history when the Adelaide Strikers host the Hobart Hurricanes at the Adelaide Oval tonight.
Adelaide won through after one of the most thrilling last overs in BBL history. The Melbourne Renegades, requiring 179 to win, needed three to win off the last ball from Ben Laughlin. Somehow – and I’m still not quite sure how – Kieron Pollard had an air swing and the Strikers were into their first ever BBL final by one solitary run.
The heartbreaking loss meant the Melbourne Renegades are now the only BBL side left to reach their first final.
Hobart won through to their second final with the upset win of the summer. Facing the mammoth task of beating the reigning champion, Perth Scorchers, at the brand-new Perth Stadium in front a parochial crowd twice as big as it would otherwise have been at the WACA, the Hurricanes went out and smashed the biggest total of the summer.
Not done there, Hobart then turned in their best bowling performance of the summer as well to roll Perth inside 18 overs and win the second final by 71 runs, the second-biggest semi-final win in the seven seasons of the BBL.
Thankfully some sanity has prevailed, with Cricket Australia on Saturday confirming that Strikers pair Travis Head and Alex Carey and Hurricanes opener D’Arcy Short will all be released from the Australian Twenty20 side to link up with their respective teams in Adelaide on the morning of the game before re-joining the national squad in Hobart on Monday.
The same arrangements haven’t been afforded to Strikers quick Billy Stanlake, who will remain with the Australian side under CA’s preference to protect fast bowlers.
With the sheer madness that has befallen the schedule this week, however, this feels like the least Cricket Australia could have done after ridiculously allowing Channel Ten to dictate the start time of the final just so that a bunch of ‘celebrities’ can carry on in a South African jungle.
The inclusions mean both sides have made changes coming into the final. With Head effectively holding his spot for the Strikers, Carey’s inclusion means promising young gloveman Harry Neilsen drops back out of the squad he only came into this week.
Fast bowler Nick Winter also comes into the Strikers squad for Afghanistan leggie and new cult hero Rashid Khan, who is finally on his way to Dubai to link up with his national side and whose departure opens the door for young legspinner Liam O’Connor
Short coming back into the Hurricanes side that didn’t miss him one bit in their semi-final means veteran Nathan Reardon drops out, while a reshuffled top order – Tim Paine opened in the semi with Matthew Wade – is also in order. International quick Tymal Mills has again been left out by Hobart.
The toss will be interesting. Both sides have shown a preference to batting first this summer to the extent that Adelaide won only one of the two games in which they chased a total while Hobart lost two of the three games they were asked to bat second.
Home ground advantage was always going to be important, but the Strikers being back to near full-strength for the final means the Adelaide Oval will be rocking one more time this summer with feeling. If it’s not sold out by the time you’re reading this, there won’t be many tickets left.
Mind you, none of that seemed to worry Hobart in the semi-final, did it…
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Adelaide Strikers squad
Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (wk), Wes Agar, Jono Dean, Colin Ingram, Ben Laughlin, Jake Lehmann, Michael Neser, Liam O’Connor, Peter Siddle, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Nick Winter.
Hobart Hurricanes squad
George Bailey, (c), Jofra Archer, Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Alex Doolan, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Simon Milenko, Tim Paine (wk), Tom Rogers, Clive Rose, D’Arcy Short, Matthew Wade.
It’s hard to escape the thinking that Adelaide burgled their way into the final, beating the Melbourne Renegades by one run off the last ball when they were perhaps lucky to have even been that close going into the last over.
Similarly, you do have to wonder if Hobart have already played their final, shocking the Perth Scorchers in a way that no-one – including themselves, I’d argue – saw coming.
Both sides will benefit from the release of the international trio of players, and certainly the addition of D’Arcy Short into a Hurricanes side that made 4/210 only three nights ago makes for a pretty dangerous side.
But just as Travis Head’s late inclusion made Adelaide a more complete outfit in Friday night’s second semi, Alex Carey coming back in at the top of the order makes them that much better again.
And that will be enough for me to stick with the home side as my tip for the final.