After 56 home and away games across 47 days, the BBL finals are finally upon us as the Heat host the Strikers in ‘The Eliminator’. The Heat upset the Scorchers on the final day to secure a spot in the top five, whilst losses to the Hurricanes and Stars allowed the Strikers to sneak into fifth place. The Heat and Strikers played an epic and the Gabba earlier this season, with the Strikers winning by two runs. The Heat are playing in their first finals series since BBL06, whilst the Strikers will be out to redeem themselves after crashing out of the finals last season at the hands of the Thunder. Can Chris Lynn continue his hot streak and carry the Heat to ‘The Knockout’? Or will the Strikers continue their good record against the Heat?
Gabba, Friday January 29, 7:15pm
Brisbane Heat Squad: Xavier Bartlett, James Bazley, Joe Burns, Max Bryant, Tom Cooper, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Sam Heazlett, Matthew Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Ben Laughlin, Chris Lynn, Morne Morkel, Lachy Pfeffer, Jimmy Peirson, Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson, Jack Wildermuth
Adelaide Strikers Squad: Travis Head, Alex Carey, Wes Agar, Danny Briggs, Harry Conway, Ryan Gibson, Michael Neser, Harry Nielsen, Liam O’Connor, Spencer Johnson, Matt Renshaw, Phil Salt, Liam Scott, Matt Short, Peter Siddle, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Daniel Worrall
Whilst the Heat come into the match as the higher seed, the Strikers will be fancying their chances. The Strikers have won their last three matches against the Heat and they have won five of their last six against the Heat at the Gabba. The Heat had their best performance of the season with the bat on Tuesday against the Scorchers but once again crumbled under pressure with the ball, conceding 74 runs off the last five overs to nearly blow an unloseable game. The Heat have a big lack of finals experience in their side, which could hurt them.
The Strikers will have confidence after smashing the Heat by 82 runs just over a week ago, on the back of an Alex Carey century. The Strikers' big advantage in this clash is in their depth. Alex Carey (412 runs), Jake Weatherald (401 runs), Phil Salt (284 runs) and Jon Wells (243 runs) have all played their roles when required, they don’t just rely on one man. In comparison, outside of Chris Lynn there isn’t a batsman in the Heat’s top six that has played more than five games, that is averaging above 22. If the Strikers can knock over Chris Lynn early, the Heat are going to be in massive trouble. Lynn has scores of 17, 26, 0 and 0 in his last four innings against the Strikers.
The Strikers have played finals in two of the last three seasons, including winning the title in BBL07 with many players in the current squad a part of that triumph. The Heat have struggled for consistency across this season and have rode Chris Lynn’s incredible form to get to the finals. With Wes Agar (21 wickets), Peter Siddle (18 wickets), Daniel Worrall (10 wickets) and Danny Briggs (10 wickets) the Strikers have the bowling stocks to contain Lynn. They’ve also got the batting depth to take down the vulnerable Heat bowling attack.
Max Bryant has scored 302 runs this season and has shown glimpses at the top of the order, but hasn’t yet capitalised on one of starts yet. In nine of his thirteen games this season, Bryant has scored at least 20 runs. The Strikers will be throwing everything they’ve got at Chris Lynn, which will open up opportunities for Bryant. Bryant has been solid at the Gabba this season, with scores of 12, 31, 32, 40 and 15. Bryant is due to turn one of these starts into a score.
Bryant scored 25 off 16 deliveries at number six against the Strikers and being back at the top of the order on Friday night with the field up, Bryant will have a big opportunity to turn a start into a big score. With Chris Lynn’s poor record against the Strikers and the struggles of the majority of his teammates this season, Bryant is well set to be the Heat’s top scorer on Friday night.
Alex Carey has had an incredible BBL09 campaign, scoring 412 runs and an average of 34, to sit as the fourth highest run scorer in the competition. After batting at number three and four throughout the season, Carey’s move back up to the top of the order late in the season has been an inspired choice for the Strikers. Reuniting with Jake Weatherald who he has combined with for one of the most successful opening partnerships in BBL history.
The Strikers skipper has an impressive record against the Heat. Carey has scored 101, 24 and 70 in his last three games against Brisbane and with the form he is in, he looks primed to put up another big score. After last season’s finals disappointment, expect Carey to come out and send a statement early on Friday night as he looks to lead his side onwards in the finals.
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