Richard Mann previews the final of the Big Bash, which takes place at the Optus Stadium on Saturday morning – check out his best bets and advice here.
Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat will contest the Big Bash final in Perth on Saturday, with the locals as short as 1/3 to claim their fifth Big Bash title and second in succession.
Perth were generally foot-perfect as they topped this year’s table, before readily brushing aside Sydney Sixers in the Qualifier to secure a home final.
All this, despite losing overseas import Faf du Plessis midway through the season, and then having to overcome a huge injury blow to pace spearhead Jhye Richardson. Furthermore, Ashton Agar is now in India as Australia prepare for a huge Test series.
But all those setbacks have done is to once again demonstrate the great depth in Western Australian cricket, which is setting the standard Down Under at present. The Scorchers are a big part of that.
Aaron Hardie has been a revelation since moved up to number three, Cameron Bancroft continues to deliver in a format that should really be a gear too high for his seemingly limited game, while relative unknown Steve Eskinazi has proven to be yet another shrewd overseas pick-up. The fast bowling depth remains frightening.
It’s hard to find very many holes in this Scorchers line-up, especially with the middle order of Josh Inglis and Ashton Turner such a formidable force later in the innings, and nor should we underestimate what an advantage playing at home gives them.
It’s not so much about the 50,000 fans that will be there to cheer on their side at the Optus Stadium on Saturday, but the steep bounce and sheer pace of the wickets in Perth catch opposition batsmen out time and time again, and the Scorchers used to the short ball to good effect when beating the Heat by seven wickets on this ground earlier in the campaign.
Expect the same method of attack again on Saturday from the likes of AJ Tye and David Payne, but at least the Heat managed 171-9 on that occasion, and without Test stars Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw.
That trio are also in India, so the Heat must do without them again, but they managed it when Michael Neser inspired them to a four-wicket win over the Sixers on Thursday in a match where some of their young talent rose to the occasion.
In Spencer Johnson, the Heat appear to have unearthed a bowler not too dissimilar in style and pace to his namesake, former Australian quick Mitchell Johnson, while Josh Brown and NATHAN MCSWEENEY have really impressed throughout the season, too.
Brown bludgeoned 34 from 21 balls when these two sides met in that aforementioned clash in early January, while McSweeney has been on my radar ever since compiling 88 against the Sixers in the regular season.
He hasn’t played much since, with Labuschagne’s return at number three forcing him on to the sidelines, but I’m not letting a low score on his return on Thursday put me off.
I have high hopes for McSweeney, who registered his maiden First Class century earlier in the Australian summer, and there are plenty more big days ahead for the 23-year-old. A smart technician with deceptive power, he has the tools to succeed across all formats.
Bet365 are holding firm by offering 5/1 about McSweeney in the top Brisbane Heat batsman market, but the 9/2 with Sky Bet and BoyleSports is also perfectly fair and worth a bet.
Like everyone else, I’m finding it hard to see past the Scorchers here, but there is no doubting the Heat have turned a corner in the last few weeks, talented young blood breathing life into the squad and hinting at a brighter future for these perennial underachievers.
With one or two shrewd signings over the winter, the Heat could take some stopping next year, but Saturday isn’t guaranteed to come too soon for a team very much on the up and having already claimed some notable scalps to make it this far.
Preview posted at 1610 GMT on 02/02/2023
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