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Good Evans! Englishman's heroic knock earns Scorchers BBL title after nightmare start

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28th January, 2022
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The Perth Scorchers have reasserted themselves as the Big Bash League’s premier franchise, completing a spectacular season as nomads by claiming the BBL11 title with a thumping 79-run victory over the depleted Sydney Sixers in the tournament final.

Reduced to 4-24 in the early overs, the Scorchers seemed in deep trouble as Sixers spin twins Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon ran amok – but a brilliant partnership between English import Laurie Evans and captain Ashton Turner rescued the innings, before their rivals’ makeshift batting line-up was suffocated by the Scorchers’ miserly bowling attack.

Player of the match Evans’ 76 was almost to the number the difference between the two sides, the Sixers able to muster only 92 with the bat as their championship defence, ignited by their stunning last-ball win over the Adelaide Strikers in Wednesday night’s Challenger final, gave way with a whimper.

The men in magenta were left to rue an onset of injuries, COVID concerns and international call-ups that decimated their squad, as well as the controversial unavailability of Steve Smith despite their best efforts to bring the Test star into the fold.

Having conceded 189 in a humbling loss to the Scorchers in the BBL qualifier, the Sixers’ move to send the favourites in again after winning the toss could only be classed as the boldest of moves.

But it was one which quickly paid dividends, BBL11 revelation Kurtis Patterson out in just the second over for 1 as an early show of intent against Jackson Bird resulted in a top-edge and the simplest of catches for wicketkeeper Jay Lenton.

Lenton, an assistant coach at the Sixers before Josh Philippe’s COVID case demanded his presence once again after playing a key role against the Strikers, would continue to contribute, a lightning stumping doing for opposite gloveman Josh Inglis.

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Having combined for a 120-run opening stand and 143 runs between them in the Qualifier, not even a shocking dropped sitter from the usually safe hands of Sean Abbott could halt the Sixers’ momentum, 2-14 soon becoming 4-25 in a staggering collapse.

Mitchell Marsh, the hero in the last T20 final he played, unwisely took on the long straight boundary at Marvel Stadium off Lyon’s first ball of the night, while New Zealander Colin Munro’s reverse-sweep off the last ball of the over hearkened back to Mike Gatting’s infamous – and equally unsuccessful – shot that led to England’s downfall in the 1987 World Cup final.

“They’re having a nightmare, the Scorchers,” Waugh said.

“They’re crumbling. They’re giving wickets away… they just look in too much of a hurry and thinking they need to make 200.

“They don’t have to, they’re going to be nowhere near that if they keep playing in this manner.”

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With the Scorchers reeling at 4-25, the depleted Sixers seemed on the verge of their fourth, and finest, BBL triumph. Content enough with their array of bowlers to sub Bird out of the game for X-factor Justin Avendano, the two-time reigning champions could not have asked for a better start.

But the Scorchers, with three previous titles of their own, aren’t top dogs for no reason.

Stepping up to steady the ship were middle-order duo Evans and Turner, neither of whom so much as faced a ball in the Qualifier. In a show of the Scorchers’ enviable depth in this COVID-affected season, a sparkling 104-run stand, kick-started by the former clouting 19 off the usually miserly O’Keefe’s third over, would steer the favourites from the brink of disaster.

Bringing up his 50 from only 25 balls, appropriately with a six, Evans eensured at least one Englishman will be leaving Australian shores at summer’s end with a match-turning performance under their belt.

His third six, an extraordinary lofted stroke over cover and into the stands, was the shot of the night… though legendary blaster Adam Gilchrist had even higher praise.

“That is shot of the tournament… exquisite,” Gilchrist gushed on Fox Cricket.

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“Look at this!”

Not to be outdone, captain Turner’s own half-century would take him just seven extra balls, the milestone reached in identical fashion.

While the Australian would fall to end the stand, O’Keefe exacting some revenge for the early punishment, Evans wasn’t done with yet.

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Finishing with a superb 76 off just 41 balls, aided at the death by a sprightly cameo from Ashton Agar, he’d shepherded the Scorchers to 6-171: not just competitive, but against the Sixers’ decimated batting stocks, all but decisive already.

Similar heroics to his stunning 98 against the Strikers were required from makeshift opening sensation Hayden Kerr; but when the all-rounder sliced Jason Behrendorff straight to short third man for just 2, the Sixers’ chances took a further hit.

A limping Daniel Hughes, earlier having shown the injury suffered by falling over a boundary rope warming up for the Qualifier with a tough dropped chance, hardly inspired confidence; nor did another COVID ring-in in Nick Bertus.

When the latter fell to Turner – his first wicket for the tournament adding to his batting heroics – the required run rate was already reaching dangerous territory.

Remarkably, the Sixers reached the halfway mark of their run chase all but apace with the Scorchers’, confirming the magnitude of Evans and Turner’s rescue act. Still needing 109 from the final 10 overs, a spectacular catch on the boundary from Patterson off a brutal pull shot from potential firestarter Dan Christian – at the cost of a damaged hand that required immediate attention – Hughes appeared their last faint hope.

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“You’d be a brave man to write us off at any stage,” the injured Silk deadpanned in an interview with Fox Cricket; but it was getting harder and harder to agree.

With the pressure mounting, the end would come quickly for the Sixers as the season’s travails took their toll. The last six wickets would fall for only 21 runs, Hughes’ run out for a fighting 42 summing up their spluttering finals run.

Cleaning up the tail was Jhye Richardson, recalled on finals eve after a frustrating summer with the Australian Test team; and AJ Tye, who induced a bottom edge from Ben Dwarshuis to prevent a repeat of his destructive 28-ball 66 in the Qualifier. When Richardson trapped O’Keefe in front, it was time to celebrate.

After a season thrown into chaos by COVID, and marred by controversy throughout, it was a fitting finish. The Sixers, gutsy till the end, made it a step further than they had any right to; but the Scorchers, the clear premier side from the outset despite spending virtually the tournament’s entirety on the road, were simply too good.

Perth Scorchers 6/171 (20 ov; Evans 76*, Turner 54, Lyon 2/24) defeated Sydney Sixers 92 (16.2 ov; Hughes 42, Tye 3/15, Richardson 2/20) by 79 runs at Marvel Stadium.

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